Wednesday 24th November 2021 @ Yardley Fives
PAGET STORM TO TROPHY GLORY!
It was just a week shy of two years since the last piece of silverware was presented in the ESPSFA and that was the Trophy – won by Hillstone – and so after a Covid-ridden hiatus of 728 days, the ESPSFA Trophy was disputed once again, and it was a memorable night especially for Paget.
Fourteen schools assembled at Yardley 5’s football centre and were placed into four groups, the winners and runners-up in each, qualifying for the quarter finals.
Group A saw Paget ease through with three wins from their three games and Harper Bell pipping Heathlands to a last eight berth courtesy of their 3-1 win over the purples from the Heathway.
The one group that contained just three teams, Group B, saw Yardley and Mapledene emerge as winners and runners-up respectively with a valiant Blakenhale just falling short in progressing.
In Group C, it was a surprise to see Short Heath exit at this stage as their league form suggested they would be one of the pre-tournament favourites, but Timberley (winners) and Thornton, emerged from a tight top three to seal qualifying spots.
The final group witnessed an impressive Lea Forest who secured maximum points in fine style, whilst Hillstone nudged out Abbey to grab that second quarter final place.
And so to the last eight: Paget continued their terrific group form with a 2-0 win over a battling Mapledene side whilst Yardley needed a last-gasp equaliser against Thornton whom they subsequently eliminated on penalties to earn themselves a semi-final clash with Lea Forest, felled Harper Bell. The semi-final make up was completed by Hillstone who defeated Timberley in a Shard End derby, to set up a last-four clash with Paget.
The semi-finals were both keenly contested and won by the slenderest of margins by Paget, 2-1 winners against Hillstone, whose goalkeeper made a plethora of fine saves, and Lea Forest, who triumphed after a tense penalty shoot-out with Yardley.
As a spectacle, the final didn’t disappoint. In a pulsating encounter in which both sides went toe-to-toe with no quarter being ceded, it was Paget who emerged victorious. Paget opened the scoring with a superb half-volleyed finish, taken on the run, but they were pegged back following a smart slotted effort from the Forest. With the spectre of penalties looming large, a rash challenge presented Paget with a free-kick six or so yards from goal and from that came the game’s winner, a sharp shot that veered into the far corner and a goal which secured Paget’s first trophy win for many a year.
It was wonderful to be back playing tournament football again and each and every school can be proud of the efforts of their children who represented them with pride, passion and total commitment. Well done to Paget on their win and to all who took part and here’s to more memorable nights like tonight.