Football: 1sts Through To Final Four of English Schools Cup
On Thursday 19 January, Bede’s 1st XI footballers undertook a three hour journey to rural Bedfordshire to compete in the quarter finals of the U18 English Schools Football Association cup.
The 2016-17 ESFA competition started in September with over 2,000 independent and maintained schools eligible to enter. To have reached the final 8 is an exceptional accomplishment in and of itself, however the past weighs heavy.
Bede’s beat the odds and, after a challenging campaign, won the prestigious championship in 2009. Subsequent 1st XIs have set out from Upper Dicker to recapture the glory, and many have reached the quarterfinal stage – including last year’s side – but none have ventured further since the 2008/9 season.
This year’s squad was therefore exceptionally keen to exceed the accomplishments of recent years, although as the bus pulled up they became sharply aware that Sharnbrook is a very large school.
With over 1,900 pupils on its role and a partnership with Bedford Football Club, from the moment the team arrived it made for an imposing venue.
“With a large home crowd in attendance, the Bede’s team knew that they needed to stick together if they were going to get through this difficult fixture,” said Bede’s Head of Football, Mr Caryer.
“Thankfully they started well, playing their usual brand of possession-based football with plenty of high-tempo pressing.”
After 15 minutes however, Sharnbrook took a surprise lead against the run of play.
Bede’s responded well and kept their composure. The boys kept to their patterns of play, with Tommy Trenaman in particular giving the Sharnbrook right back a difficult time. Bede’s then earned the goal they deserved through a well-taken finish from Isaac Drogba.
Sharnbrook’s direct play, with three very good forward players on a difficult surface, was starting to cause Bede’s problems however, and late in the first half they scored their second goal to go in 2-1 up at half time.
Student hero for 2015-16 Tommy Trenaman.
Bede’s came out strong in the second half and soon equalized through another well-taken Isaac finish.
At this stage, the 1sts were on the front foot and looked the more likely team to score next. What happened subsequently was a big turning point in the game however, with the Bede’s keeper sent off for bringing down a Sharnbrook forward.
Young Bermudan Diego Richardson rose to the challenge and took up position in goal. Sharnbrook took the penalty, converted it, and with Bede’s down to 10 men, and 3-2 behind, most teams would have crumbled.
Not this year’s 1sts, however.
“They showed tremendous team spirit and work ethic,” Mr Caryer explained, “and continued to look like the stronger side even with a reduced number of players on the pitch.”
Then, with 10 minutes to go, Jack Dunkley made a fine third man run and was put through on goal by a fine Harry Blackman pass.
Jack calmly converted the chance and sent the game into extra time.
With the clock ticking down, Farral Ryder’s pace was causing Sharnbrook problems. The teams could not be split after extra time however, and the match went to penalties.
Bede’s and Sharnbrook took some outstanding penalties under the pressure but, finally, the burden proved too much for Sharnbrook. A shot was missed, and Patrick Dallaway stepped up to score the winning penalty, sending Bede’s through to the semi-finals of the ESFA cup for the first time since 2009.
The moment of victory back in 2009.
Mr Caryer said of the match, “I am so proud of the team. To play for so much of the match with only 10 men and in difficult conditions, and still come away with a positive result, shows the depth of character and team spirit we have within the group.”
Fingers crossed then for the next round, which will see Bede’s meet either Millfield or Hampton at home.
It should be one to watch…