Representative National Cup competitions saw the last of the 20/21 finalists decided in June – with plenty of action and drama to report along the way
ESFA photographer, 353 Photography talks us through his schools’ football experiences from June 2021…
We started off the month just where we kicked off last month’s review, at Stafford Town, with Staffordshire and Gloucestershire meeting in round 2 of the U14 Girls Inter County Cup on a sunny Monday evening.
Despite the home side making a bright opening to the game, it was the visitors clinical finishing that would prove to be the difference with ‘four goal’ Slocombe leading the way in a 10-0 win that was a little harsh on the hosts. However, there was no denying that Gloucestershire performed excellently on the night.
Next we turned our focus to the U16 Girls Inter County Cup, with a Friday night trip to the capital to see Middlesex storm to victory over Sussex at Haringey Borough on White Hart Lane.
An impressive attacking display saw them book a semi-final spot with a 7-0 win. Gunning-Williams and Star bagged a brace each with their opponents putting in a resolute performance against a team considered to be the favourites to make the final.
After a late night train home, it was back in the car to head north the following morning, the same competition (U16 Girls) seeing Merseyside host Cleveland at the Tiber Football Centre.
Bright sunshine again greeted our arrival in the suburbs of Liverpool and it was the home side who set up a semi final with Lancashire courtesy of a 4-1 win, with ‘two goal’ Holly Jones scoring either side of the break.
As with many matches this season, Cleveland will be kicking themselves having missed plenty of opportunities to get back into the game but Emilia Lamb and Jessie Newton were also on target to confirm the home side’s place in the final four.
Next it was the turn of the Under 11 Boys in the Danone Nations Cup. This 9-a-side semi-final was packed with drama as Wolverhampton and Liverpool went toe to toe throughout an incredibly exciting and entertaining game.
Jackson and Mallin had given the home side a 2-0 lead, but Liverpool fought back to tie the game up late in the second half following a dramatic goal mouth scramble.
Just when it looked like extra time would be needed to split the teams, it was Aneke who proved to be the hero, his strike from the edge of the box sealing a 3-2 win and seeing wild celebrations to mark the first time a Wolverhampton district side has made a national final for since 1931!
Our final games of the early rounds for this season took us back down to Haringey Borough as Middlesex hosted a double header of semi-finals in both the U14 and U16 Girls competitions.
First up their opponents were Kent, in what was a very close cup tie, and needed extra time to decide a winner after a 2-2 draw. The 70 minutes of game play saw both sides missing chances to win the game in normal time.
The deadlock was broken in dramatic fashion, as the home side bagged 3 quick goals to progress courtesy of a 5-2 win with the threat of a penalty shoot-out on the horizon.
The U16 match saw Gloucestershire face the daunting task of quashing the attacking threat from a Middlesex side we saw hit 7 just two weeks earlier. Just 5 minutes into the game, it looked like they had put themselves in a great position by taking a 2-0 lead with a Hopton brace.
It still left well over an hour of football for the home side to recover though. They pulled a goal back almost immediately and then set about a display of relentless attacking football to bag five goals in each half with Dennis scoring 4 of them to book a final place against Lancashire – what a game that proved to be!
Credit to both Kent and Gloucestershire who more than played their part on a warm afternoon in the capital but were ultimately undone by two excellent Middlesex sides.
We can’t wait for September to come around so we can relish what are sure to be some exciting finals!
A huge thank you to our official photographer Garry Griffiths for writing this report and travelling around the country to provide amazing coverage of schools football. If you would like to view or purchase any of the pictures in this report please contact ThreeFiveThree photography.