ESFA National Finals, featured

Danone Nations Cup Finals 2021

After a heavily interrupted schools’ football season, we finally got to see the four best Under 11 sides compete for the ESFA Danone Nations Cup trophy last weekend at AFC Telford United. Check out the match reports and pictures below for an overview of how the finals went down…

U11 Boys’ District Cup Final – Lewisham 4 – 2 Wolverhampton

The Boys’ competition, which kicked off at lunchtime on Saturday 4 September, saw Lewisham DSFA taking on Wolverhampton DSFA, with the southern side taking a firm grip early in the game.

A lively start from both sides was a precursor of things to come and just two minutes in, Lewisham took the lead. An Andrew Pennie header from a perfectly delivered free-kick gave Joseph Rutter no chance. A second goal came a few minutes later, courtesy of another set piece – Pennie again getting a vital touch to a corner and seeing it loop into the net.

Wolves came close to halving the deficit with a shot from Ethan Smith that was saved by Sam Edwards and with Ricky Jackson volleying the rebound narrowly over the bar.

Smith was causing the most headaches for the Lewisham defence but 20 minutes in, the pressure was eased with a third goal from Kayden Roberts, cutting in from the left and firing it home.

It was harsh on Wolverhampton who had more than contributed to an excellent game, but they were given a lifeline late in the half. Ricky Jackson took a fantastic free kick that gave Lewisham keeper, Edwards, no chance and the teams went into the break with Lewisham 3-1 ahead.

Wolves ‘danger-man’, Smith saw an early second half free kick cleared off the line while at the other end, Symeon Andrews saw his shot tipped onto the bar by the Wolves keeper.

Rutter again denied Roberts and was the saviour again when he denied Pennie a hat-trick from a quick break, as Wolves struggled to break down a resolute Lewisham defence at the other end.

Sonny Card was the next to be denied by Rutter, saving from close range but the keeper could do nothing about Lewisham’s clinching 4th goal, as we saw Darrion Johnson with a delightful chip over the advancing Rutter in the closing minutes.

Wolves did pull one back two minutes later and great work from Smith saw him set up Elliot Mallin to hit home and reduce the Lewisham lead to 4-2.

The final few moments turned into a battle for the ball as Wolves tried to get back into the game with Lewisham determined to keep possession. The latter holding out to win the game 4-2 and be crowned National Champions for 2020-2021.

U11 Girls’ District Cup Final – Liverpool 4 – 2 Woking

The girls’ final had a lot to live up to after the boys match and it didn’t fall short with some fantastic goals in another highly entertaining game.

Woking were the first to make a breakthrough, but only after Chelsea Ndrin had rocked their crossbar with a shot that came inches from giving Liverpool the lead inside the opening 5 minutes.

Woking captain, Ellie Szekeres, lifted a cross in from the right hand side which found Ellie Turner who volleyed past Ellie Lamb in the Liverpool goal for a 1-0 lead.

Charlotte Hickey in the Woking goal was caught in no-mans land as Ndrin chased a through ball, but the Liverpool striker put her shot wide. However, she was not to be denied, firing in a long-range shot a few moments later that had too much power for the keeper – making the scores level.

Ndrin was proving to be a handful and could have scored again shortly after. It was not long before Liverpool edged ahead, Ndrin’s cross was mishandled by the keeper and Francis Taylor took full advantage to fire home at the back post.

The teams went in at the break with Liverpool 2-1 ahead but Woking were far from out of this tie although their task got harder early in the second half with an unfortunate own goal. Once again it was Ndrin bearing down on goal and her fierce shot was saved by Hickey, only for the rebound to fall to skipper Izzie Breen who fired it back across the goal where the ball hit Emily Hall and rolled into the Woking net.

Turner could have replied with her second for Woking, but was denied by keeper Lamb and while clear chances were few and far between, it was a compelling game to watch with some titanic midfield battles taking place, as both sides looked for that all important next goal.

Hickey made a fine save to deny Taylor her second goal but could do nothing to deny Ndrin hers, with just 6 minutes to go – a long range shot taking a slight deflection for a 4-1 lead.

Szekeres combined with Turner for the Woking striker’s second goal of the game in the final minute to reduce the arrears to 4-2.

Battle as they might, there was no way through for another Woking goal with the dominant Ndrin inches from her hat-trick when she rolled a shot just wide deep into injury time, leaving skipper Breen denied by Hickey with the final shot of the game.

The whistle blew to signal jubilant celebrations in the Liverpool camp who were subsequently crowned National Champions, although plenty of credit goes to Woking for not only reaching the final but playing their part in another outstanding schools’ football final.

A big thank you to everyone who came to support their teams and applaud both the winners and runners-up in a fantastic example of the sporting nature of schools’ football.

If you would like to purchase any of the pictures in this report or any others taken on the day please contact ThreeFiveThree photography.

featured, The World of Schools' Football

Meet the new ESFA Chairman – Mark Hignett

The ESFA is delighted to announce that Mark Hignett has stepped into the role of ESFA chairman for the 2021/22 season.

Mark joined the ESFA Council in May 2014 and, in doing so, became the first ever serving teacher from Shropshire to be elected to the position. This is a fact that Mark is extremely proud of, as he is of assuming the position of ESFA Chairman for season 2021-22. Mark has taken over the role of ESFA Chairman from Council colleague Phil Harding. The ESFA would like to thank Phil for his effort and commitment over his two-year campaign as Chairman and now welcomes Mark into the role.

Mark is delighted that Stuart Botham (Essex County Schools’ FA) has been elected as Vice Chairman for the coming season and is excited about the influence that two serving teachers in these positions can have within the National Governing Body. Both Council members are driven to ensure that their experience of current employment in schools is used effectively and with great consideration to move the Association forwards for the benefit of our schoolchildren. Mark is also passionate about the role of sport and in particular, the positive influence that football can have within the wider offer of schools. He is determined that his year as Chairman will combine footballing opportunities of the highest standard with an increased contribution to education through football.

As is tradition, Mark has selected a “Chairman’s Charity” for his time as Chairman. He has decided to support Ronald McDonald House Charities UK a charity that provides a “home-from-home” for families, for as long as they need it, when their children are in hospital. This is a charity that Mark himself has benefitted from as well as two of his colleagues at Shropshire Schools’ and Colleges’ FA. The ESFA is delighted to promote the Ronald McDonald House Charities UK for the 2021/22 season and you can click here for more information and how you can help support Mark’s chosen charity.