Throwback Thursday – 353 Photography’s Travels in March 2020

With positivity in the air, the ESFA is looking forward to kicking off the 21/22 Schools’ Football season in September – before then, we’re going on our travels with ESFA photographer, Garry Griffiths (353 Photography), to recount some of the action he managed to capture back in 2020

This week’s throwback looks back on our final week of national competition coverage before the Covid lockdown just over a year ago with plenty of drama on show.

By now we would normally be focusing on later round coverage and back in March 2020 we kicked off the week with a trip to Shropshire for a double header of quarter final action as the home side saw their U18 Girls and U12 Boys in action. Covering two games side by side is tricky with the chances of being in the wrong place at the wrong time magnified. However, today we got lucky as both games were tight contests and ended in penalty kicks on both pitches.

Match 1: ESFA Under 18 Girls Super League Quarter Final
Thomas Telford School 1 – 1 Hartpury College (TTS win 5-3 on penalties)

The U18 Girls’ match was as competitive as we suspected it would be with two strong sides in Thomas Telford and Hartpury going toe to toe from the start. Despite plenty of effort and skill, it was scoreless until Hartpury took the lead with a long range effort from the corner of the penalty area before the home side drew level late on with a 25 yard effort of their own. With no further scoring, the game went to penalties and it was the home side who claimed their last four spot in a tense shoot-out by bagging all 5 of their kicks.

Match 2: ESFA Under 12 Boys Cup Quarter Final
Thomas Telford School 0 – 0 St Francis Xavier’s College (SFX win 4-3 on penalties)

On the 3G pitch next door it was St Francis Xavier’s College from Liverpool who made the trip down and this was just as close and as tense as the girls fixture. Both sides showed flashes of quality that could have won the tie but, despite some tense and nervy moments at both ends late on, the game went to spot kicks to decide who would progress. It was SFX who won through 4-3 on spot kicks with their squad celebrating keeping their dream alive although, sadly, this was to end with a shared title with The Toynbee School after the Liverpool lockdown prevented the team travelling to the Lilleshall final in October.

Match 1: ESFA Under 13 Boys Cup Semi Final
St Peters Catholic School 3 – 2 Cardinal Langley RC School

The following day we travelled across the Midlands to Coleshill Town’s Pack Meadow Ground as St Peter’s Catholic School hosted Cardinal Langley RC High School from Rochdale for a place in the U13 final. The visitors took a 1-0 lead into the break and were looking good for a final spot in a tense second half but a Luke Enright ‘goal of the month’ winner took the game to extra-time where two further goals put the home side in touching distance of the final. Despite a late goal for Cardinal Langley it was St Peter’s who held on for a dramatic 3-2 win and a place in a final that proved just as dramatic as they lifted the crown with a 5-4 win over Emerson Park.

Match 2: ESFA Under 13 Elite Boys Cup Semi Final
Sandwell Academy 12 – 2 Dyke House Technology College

Finally, and in our last game before Covid halted our adventures in schools’ football for a while, we made the short journey to Sandwell Academy as they hosted Dyke House Sports & Technology College who had made the long journey from the North East. The visitors were no match for the home side, although there is no shame in that, as we believe Sandwell to have one of the most talented sides at that age group and were reigning champions from the previous season.

It was goals galore with half a dozen in each half spread throughout the team although full credit must go to Dyke House who never gave up battling and they could easily have bagged a few more than the two goals they scored. After a team photo in the shadow of the Hawthorns, it was time for Dyke House to make the long journey home and for me to pack away my ESFA jacket for a few months.

Sandwell were to fall one spot-kick short in the final, a titanic re-match with Shenfield ended in a 0-0 draw and the Essex school avenged their defeat from the season before with a 11-10 victory on penalties.

Hopefully we can get back to the drama that these national competitions always seem to throw up – fingers crossed we are all back out on the school field soon!