It was a day to remember for Yardley Primary School’s under-11s football team recently when they donned the Leyton Orient football kit to represent the club at the regional finals of the prestigious kinder+Sport Football League Kids Cup.
A 10.15am kick off meant an early start for the team and their entourage of parents as Swindon Town were hosting the event but the boys began well in chilly and blustery conditions, defeating Colchester 1-0 in their opening game.
It was decided by the organisers that this year’s format would be similar to last season albeit without semi-finals, with the twelve teams representing League One south divided into two divisions and playing each other to determine league winners who would then contest the regional final and a chance to play at Wembley.
After a 0-0 draw with hosts Swindon, including a fine penalty save from O’s goalkeeper Joshun Halil, a close fought match with Crawley left the O’s relying on other results after suffering a 2-1 reverse.
Howard Gould, Leyton Orient Community Liaison Officer, said, “After such a long journey and the early start it was a shame that only the league winners got to play an extra game. The semi-finals were good for us last season as we (Chase Lane Primary school) were runners up in our mini-league but eventually went through to experience what is a once in a lifetime opportunity for these boys – playing at Wembley.
“Even with two games left to play the youngsters knew they couldn’t win their league due to other teams results and a couple were quite upset but after a solidarity team talk they came out firing and were a credit to their school and as representatives for the O’s.”
Even though a 3-0 win over Yeovil and a 2-0 victory over Notts County lifted the team from fourth to second in the final table, it wasn’t enough to catch Crawley who had won all of their group games and went on to face Gillingham, winners of the other mini-league.
A close fought, exciting game ensued with both goalkeepers excelling and assuring the game went into five minutes of ‘golden goal’ before the dreaded penalty shoot-out but with 30 seconds left, Crawley moved the ball well culminating in a goal that takes them to Wembley to face the northern winners ahead of the League One Play-Off Final on Sunday, May 24.
“It would have been nice to get that semi-final game against the Gills but Crawley are worthy victors, winning all of their games on the day. We wish them the best of luck on their special day at Wembley,” added Gould.
Yardley teacher Glen Reddick said: “This was a great day all round. We are proud of the team to reach this stage and it’s been really nice to be able to represent Leyton Orient. There has been some real quality on display and we’re just glad we had the chance to be involved.”
Penalty-save hero Joshun Halil, commented: “This was fun. I’m not really a goalkeeper but I’m the best in the school!” Fabian Isopo added: “I think we did really well but Crawley deserved to win. My favourite part was scoring a goal!”
Squad: Khalon Haysman, Joshun Halil, Joseph Walsh, George Murray, Fabian Isopo, Henry Wood, Alfie Mobey, Dylan Tyrrell.