It wasn’t to be for two of our local schools as their Wembley dreams vanished at Eastleigh FC on Wednesday March 20th.
Representing Leyton Orient at the National League Trust’s U11’s cup competitions, Redbridge schools Churchfields Junior and Aldersbrook Primary, had both reached the Southern Regional finals after winning their local schools tournament, hosted by Leyton Orient Trust at Ive Farm in November last year, and the area competition, hosted at Boreham Wood just a month ago.
On a chilly day in the south of England, apart from ourselves, schools representing Torquay, Bath, Oxford City, Sutton United, Bromley, Dagenham & Redbridge, Dulwich Hamlet and Dartford had also travelled a distance to be part of a competition that would lead to a winner, in both the boys and the girls tournament, going on to play their counterparts from the north of England in a Wembley final prior to the National League Play-Off Final in May.
With standards improving year on year, lots of the players involved are now already at club academies or similar and so some of the skill on display were a joy to behold.
The girls team from Aldersbrook got off to a steady start with a draw against local rivals Dagenham & Redbridge and followed that up with a win. But consecutive defeats meant they would have to win their last group game to be assured of a semi-final place and this they did. However, they would now have to face a strong Dartford team who duly took their place in the final only to lose out to the school representing Sutton United.
“It was a long journey and early start, but the girls had a great day out. We did our best and I’m delighted with the team,” said teacher and coach Aslam Hussain. “To come third in the south of England is something to be very proud of and we were very honoured to wear the Leyton Orient kit. The girls are all friends and have really enjoyed the experience”.
In the boys competition, Churchfields got of to a flier, beating Torquay 2-0 but a run of three consecutive defeats meant only a win and some luck in their last group game would guarantee them a semi-final place. They duly beat Dulwich Hamlet 2-1 but an inferior goal-difference to that very team mean they missed out and couldn’t reach the stage they had managed to at last year’s event.
Teacher and team coach, Lisa Brown, was unable to be at Eastleigh due to sickness but commented, “We’re always proud to represent Orient and we were determined to go one better than last year but it was not to be. I’m upset I couldn’t be there, but I know the boys would have given everything. But we’re still immensely proud of getting to the southern finals and being in the top six. It’s a great experience for the team and I know they will only get stronger. Hopefully next year it will be third time lucky!”
The final was a cagey affair with two excellent teams in the schools from Bromley and Oxford City battling it out for their Wembley appearance and a solitary goal from the City team in blue and white hoops was enough to take them to the hallowed turf under the arch on May 11th! It was also the only goal Bromley had conceded throughout the tournament! We wish Oxford City well in the final.
As a thank you for their fantastic efforts, Churchfields and Aldersbrook have been invited to the O’s game v Harrogate on April 19th and they will be parading their area winners trophies during the half time interval.