Every schoolboys dream is to play at a National Final. Not many get to live that dream, and even for the lucky souls that do, few get to taste victory. However, a team of Cornish schoolboys have done exactly that after a pulsating victory over Liverpool Schools in the U13 National District Final on Wednesday 8th May 2013 at Hereford FC.
The group of 12 and 13 year olds from around West Cornwall have been on an unprecedented run this year in a District competition that attracts entries from 113 teams from around the Country. Even to reach this stage it has taken West Cornwall to overcome the likes of East Cornwall, Poole & East Dorset, North Somerset, Portsmouth, Waltham Forest and Aston, Erdington & Saltley. But their biggest challenge waited them in the final, against a Liverpool Schools side who not only won the competition last season, but are regarded as the strongest District setup in the Country.
The Liverpool team featured 9 players signed to Academy’s based at either Liverpool, Everton or Crewe and their pedigree showed in the early stages of the game, with their narrow midfield four managing to zip passes around the West Cornwall side. Despite this, the first chance of the game fell to the Cornish side enthusiastically cheered on by a sizeable contingent of travelling fans. Will Trew (Truro School) did well to control a bouncing ball and his dipping volley looked destined for the roof of the net until Liverpool keeper Patrick Wharton arched to tip it over the bar.
Despite this early chance, Liverpool quickly asserted their authority, with a strong wind at their back and driven forward by their outstanding skipper Regan Griffiths. And it was a Griffiths cross which presented Liverpool with their best chance of the first half, with the ball falling to the livewire Chadrac Kapenda how somehow managed to turn the ball over the bar from five yards out.
Liverpool continued to dictate the half, with some expansive and impressive attacking football. The trio of Griffiths, Kapenda and the industrious Daniel Tierney were dictating play and forcing West Cornwall deeper inside their half. But the Cornish back four of Finn Robinson (Penryn College), Josh Otto (St Ives), Joel Allen (Penryn College) and Oliver Walker (Richard Lander) managed to repel everything thrown at them and return safely to the dressing room all square at the break.
But it was mere respite, as Liverpool started the second half as they finished the first and nearly took the lead on 37 minutes when Kapenda found himself one-on-one with Ryan Barnes (Camborne School) but his toe poke rolled agonisingly wide of the post.
And perhaps that miss was a sign that it was meant to be West Cornwall’s day because on 41 minutes, the Cornish youngsters took the lead. Finn Cross (Penryn College) was fouled some thirty yards from goal, and Allen stepped up to fire a rocket of a free kick into the top corner. It was a strike worthy of any final, at any level, and sparked wild celebrations from the Cornish fans.
The goal settled West Cornwall, and they could have added more through Jack Webber (Hayle), Luke Jephcott (Penryn) and Theo Simpson (Mounts Bay) who all tested Wharton as the youngsters in gold and black began to increasingly assert themselves on the game.
Liverpool searched desperately for an equaliser but in truth didn’t seriously test Barnes again, with Otto and Allen in particular outstanding at the back. And with the agonising 5 minutes of stoppage time ticking away, Cornish footballing history was ensured. With Liverpool pushing forward Cross found himself alone and through on Wharton. The youngster steadied himself and calmly slipped the ball under the advancing keeper to ensure the title would be heading South.
The final whistle saw jubilant and emotional scenes from the players, coaches and parents together on the pitch. And the youngsters deserved every accolade, achieving perhaps the greatest ever feat of any Cornish football team in history. National Champions, the best in the Country. Not many can say that.
Ryan Barnes (Camborne)
Finn Robinson (Penryn)
Oliver Walker (Richard Lander)
Joel Allen (Penryn)
Josh Otto (St Ives)
Toby Horsell (St Ives)
Will Trew (Truro)
Jack Webber (Hayle)
Finn Cross (Penryn)
Jacob Trudgeon (Mounts Bay)
Theo Simpson (Mounts Bay)
Luke Jephcott (Penryn)
Max Armstrong (Mounts Bay)
Oliver Pritchard (Richard Lander)
Louis Graham (St Ives)
Adam Dower (Richard Lander)
Manager – Kevin Lawrence
Coach – Frazer Cadman.
Goalscorers – Joel Allen (41), Finn Cross (70+5)
REPORT – Written by Jake Ash (West Cornwall SFA Secretary)
PICTURE – Captain Josh Otto receives the trophy from ESFA Council Member Paul Rickard.