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U13 Boys Herefordshire Schools County Football Final v Whitecross High School at Edgar Street.

The backdrop was Hereford’s Edgar Street stadium on what was arguably both the hottest and wettest night of the year, and many thanks to the support of both pupils, parents and fellow staff, who made it such a great atmosphere for the boys to play in.

It wasn’t completely the proverbial ‘game of two halves’, but Whitecross certainly edged the first half, not just in terms of the score board as they took a 1 – 0 lead on 18 minutes, but they also dominated possession, and adapted to playing on what is a very big pitch for this age group better than we did.  Nerves were clearly a factor, and the boys undoubtedly played the ball too long from the back, and as a result asked a lot of our midfield and front line to get the ball down and play our normal style of pass and move football.

The boys had probably worked it out for themselves, but the half time team talk back in the changing rooms provided the perfect opportunity to reset and focus the mind on playing the ball into feet, in order to retain possession and create more goal scoring opportunities.

Early pressure from such build up play won a corner for St Mary’s 5 minutes into the second half.  Set piece specialist, Taylor R, curled the ball into the near post, for Oscar N to flick on, with St Mary’s captain, Tom L, arriving at the far post to hit the ball on the half volley into the roof of the net to make it 1 – 1. 

It was so important to get an early goal to settle any remaining nerves, and now back in game, and with the momentum, St Mary’s went from strength to strength.  Fitness levels may also have played a part, with St Mary’s increasingly looking the more likely side to get a winner, and avoid the lottery of a penalty shoot-out.

Sticking to our mantra of playing out from the back, one such move down the right flank saw right back, Harry T, thread the ball through to St Mary’s centre forward, Oli R, and he struck the ball into the far corner form the edge of the 18 yard box on 15 minutes, to make it 2 – 1 to St Mary’s, and what was to prove the winning goal.

The boys showed great resilience to come from behind, just as they had done in their semi-final match against Earl Mortimer College.  Naturally there was great joy at the final whistle, and a victory made all the more sweeter for the fact that twelve months ago the boys had lost to the same opposition in a penalty shoot-out.

Many congratulations not just to the match day squad, but to all those boys who played their part in the group games of the competition earlier in the season.