For this Throwback Thursday we travel back to the start of the 2021/22 season with ESFA photographer Garry Griffiths (353 Photography) who travelled to the South West of England covering multiple ESFA National Cup fixtures.
“With the world a long way from returning to normal and holiday options away from Britain fraught with complications, we took the decision to have a short break at one of our island’s many options. Having left my wife to determine our destination, she plumped for Torquay with Devon – an area largely unexplored by us – and offering multiple opportunities for me to cover a few early round national cup ties, in one long distance trip.
First up was the Under 16 Boys’ opening round tie at Torquay Grammar School as they welcomed West Exe School on a very wet afternoon on the English Riviera. Traffic issues delayed the visitor’s arrival from Exeter meaning a later kick-off than expected, but it gave me plenty of chance to assess the views around the pitch with a bowl shape on two sides giving an excellent view of the action for the few parents braving the conditions to support.
The home side were quick out of the blocks and having already hit the post early on, they took command of the game in the first half and eventually ran out a deserved 7-2 win, with Charlie Wood scoring a brace.
24 hours later, it was a short trip along the coast to Paignton Community & Sports Academy. Thankfully, the weather was a million miles from the day before, with bright sunshine throughout the day.
Paignton welcomed a strong Ivybridge Community College team in the opening round of the U14 Boys’ Cup and the visitors took control of the game early to race into a healthy lead on the way to a 7-0 victory in the Devon sun. A Burch hat-trick sealing their round 2 place.
Just a day later it was the return of the rain for the Churston Ferrers Grammar School Academy Under 18 Boys’ Cup second round tie with Torquay Academy. Once again, played in pouring rain but on an excellent surface.
With substitutes seeking shelter in the small covered porch of the changing rooms, it was 3 second half goals from the visitors that led them into round 3 after a tight match in testing condition. This would also not the be the last time we see the winners of this fixture either, more of that later in the summer!
Finally, we ended the 4 games in 4 days with a visit to Torquay Academy for their Under 16 Boys’ tie with Hele’s School who had made the 40 mile trip from Plymouth on another sunny Devon afternoon.
The home side scored 4 in each half to secure progress into round 2, where they would meet near-neighbours Torquay Boys Grammar School, just a mile up the road and in the bowl where we kicked off the trip just a few days earlier!
In truth, the final scoreline was harsh on Hele’s who had not only missed chances of their own to pull themselves back into the game but also conceded a flurry of late goals, as they pushed forward trying to reduce the arrears.
As tempting as it was to make the trip back to Devon for that big derby fixture, we had alternative plans to continue our coverage around the country with fixtures coming thick and fast – for the record it was the home side who took the bragging rights with a 3-1 win before eventually exiting themselves at Ivybridge in round 5.
A mix of weather, venues and schools for our first stay away trip of the 2021-2022 season and welcome return to schools football after a year away due to the pandemic. A massive thanks to all the schools involved in these fixtures for allowing us along and maybe we will see you again soon!”
A big thank you to the ESFA’s official photographer for continuing to cover the early round ESFA National Cup fixtures in such great detail. Stay tuned for more Throwback Thursday’s with further coverage of ESFA National Cup fixtures from the 2021-22 season.
Report and images provided by 353 Photography
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.