Our Year 8 squad started the day bright and early on Wednesday, meeting at school full of excitement and nerves at 6.30am. On arrival at West Bromwich Albion ground it all started to feel real for the team. As they entered the changing rooms to see their new PlayStation sponsored FA playing kits hung up for them alongside an embroidered cup final warm up tracksuit top kindly supplied by all of their parents, the time has finally come.
The warm up took place in the West Bromwich Albion Dome, in preparation for the main event on the pitch. It was clear the boys were ready and fully focused on the job in hand, from the dome it was a two minute transfer to the main stadium where you could hear the noise of the crowd. Another brief warm up on the pitch adjusting to the surface and the atmosphere and then a the nervous line up in the tunnel, but the boys took all this in their stride.
The Saints started strong which is typical of them, not allowing the opposition out of their half. The team just couldn’t put any of their attempts into the back of the net, with Giles on the wing and with Martin in goal making a crucial save enabled us to keep the score 0-0. But with a long ball down the field, the opposition took their chance to make the score 0-1 at half time.
The half time team talk was positive, I saw the disappointment in their faces, so I told them “ I am more confident now than I was before the game, trust me and play our game, we’ve got this" These words clearly resonated with the boys.
The second half began and the Saints came out flying. A perfect through ball by Lovatt to Giles who deservedly slotted home the equaliser 1-1. Minutes later the Saints continued to pile on the pressure, Echebarria with some wonderful skill was brought down in the box, PENALTY! Giles took the ball which took all the attention off of our penalty taker Lovatt, who confidently slotted the ball home to make the score 2-1.
Soon after a life lesson was learnt, after celebrating a goal it is vital to be switched on after the restart which the Saints were not. St Mary’s went down the other end straight from kick off and scored a fantastically taken equaliser 2-2 and this is how the game ended. Penalty shootout.
At the team briefing I told the boys "Just pick a spot and hit it home, no pressure and what will be will be." They took the advice on board and all of the boys on the outfield scored their penalties confidently 10-10, it was now down to the goal keepers. Martin then made a superb save tipping the penalty onto the bar, one penalty now needed to win it.
The Saints goal keeper Martin calmed himself and ran up and smashed the ball into the top corner with an unstoppable strike to bring home the ESFA National Cup home to St James.
We are immensely proud of the boys on their win but whatever the result, we would have still been proud. The team are now part of St James sporting history, and to recognise this significant achievement the whole squad have been awarded a gold shell by Mr Brazier.
An unforgettable occasion for all involved and emotions are still sky high, Thank you to the whole squad for making this such a memorable event.
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