With the representative National Cup finals kicking off this week, we take a look back to some of our early round travels capturing plenty of action and drama along the way!
We pick up our coverage with the girls Under 16 opening round match between Staffordshire and Oxfordshire at Stafford Town on the last Monday in April, an end to end match that needed penalties to decide the winner.
Izzy Amphlett had given the visitors a 1-0 half time lead but the hosts were back on level terms midway through second half with a goal from Jess Powis.
Despite chances at both ends to win in normal time the game finished 1-1 with the hosts snatching what looked like the winning goal less than a minute into extra-time, when Lottie MacMurray scored from the edge of the box.
With the seconds ticking away, a sweeping move into the Staffordshire box gave Izzy Todeschini a sight of goal and she converted the chance to send the game to penalties, where Oxfordshire prevailed 5-3 to move into round two.
Just over a week later, we ventured across the Welsh border as Swansea hosted West Cornwall in the second round of the boys PlayStation F.C. Under 15 Inter Association Trophy. This was another tie where the final score of 5-1 to Swansea did not tell the whole story, as West Cornwall had plenty of chances to essentially make this a basketball score!
Alfie Downing and Kieran Norman gave the hosts a 2-0 half time lead and, despite multiple chances for the visitors to claw their way back into the game, they somehow found themselves 5-0 down with Cole Gibbings and Rory Burdett adding to Downing’s second goal to put the game beyond reach.
Freddie Issaka, a constant threat for the visitors, scored arguably the best goal of the game to reduce the arrears, but it was mere consolation for a team who left for the long journey home wondering what might have been, had they converted just half of their chances on the afternoon.
The following day we headed north to Teeside to cover a double header of action with Cleveland hosting South Yorkshire in both the U16 and U18 boys competitions at Billingham Town FC.
First up was the Under 16 boys round 2 match where a single Ben Johnson header in the second half was enough to win the tie for Cleveland. The visitors must still be wondering how they didn’t grab an equaliser, the width of a crossbar was the closest they came as late pressure seemed like they would find the goal to take it to extra time.
In the Under 18 boys round 2 match that followed, it was a Harry Close hat-trick that sealed a semi final berth for the north easterners with a 3-1 win as the weather moved from sunshine to rain and back again!
South Yorkshire looked out of it midway through the first half as Close had put the hosts 2-0 ahead, but with the visitors pulling one back just before the break, they had hopes of a comeback.
It was all to no avail though as they could not find a way past a stubborn Cleveland rear guard and when Close completed his three goal haul later in the game, it secured a last four trip to Gloucestershire.
Finally, we headed back to South Wales the following day for a dramatic derby at Briton Ferry with West Glamorgan hosting Cardiff & The Vale in the Boys’ Under 16 Inter County Trophy. The game went back and forth with Cardiff nudging ahead only for West Glamorgan to draw level before the break before taking the lead in the second half.
With the sunshine beating down on a glorious evening for football a long range effort drew Cardiff level and the game headed to extra time.
Chances were limited in extra time and the game seemed destined for penalties, until the referee awarded a spot kick to Cardiff with barely a minute remaining and the visitors took full advantage to nick the 3-2 win and confirm a semi final trip to Kent.
All in all a dramatic couple of weeks proving that representative football is still providing exciting opportunities for young students and we are sure that this week’s finals in Southampton can provide the same level of drama and kick off our finals programme in style.
The National Governing Body for Schools’ Football in England.