THE 2015 Redditch United Schools Cup final proved to be a thrilling affair as finalists Woodrush and Walkwood continued the competition’s fine tradition at the Valley Stadium on Monday.
Whatever the outcome, the players and fans knew a new name was going to be on the cup as neither side had won the competition before despite both being previous finalists.
Some entertaining football was played and the match went all the way to a dramatic penalty shoot-out in which losing 2011 finalists Woodrush prevailed, sparking plenty of celebrations amongst their players.
This was the sixth staging of the final since the event’s inception in 2010. The Schools Cup was first organised in 2010 by TRUST (the Redditch United Supporters Club) in liaison with the club and Redditch Sports Partnership and it was intended to further strengthen the club’s links with the community, which Reds chairman and vice-chairman Chris and Sallie Swan have driven on since taking over.
Year eight teams from the middle schools in and around Redditch play each other in two leagues before semi-finals to decide who goes through to the final at the home of the Reds.
With thanks to Redditch United for providing the ground and catering and to Reds Reserves manager Julian Workman and his team for officiating, the stage was set in foggy conditions.
Woodrush made a bright start with some slick passing movements and Woodfield keeper Dylan Cartwright made a good save to prevent them scoring.
Then, after ten minutes and against the run of play, Woodfield went ahead with their first attempt on goal as Mason Taylor’s 30-yard free kick found the net.
Woodrush responded well and five minutes later equalised when George Clarke seized on a rebound following a free kick, leaving the score at 1-1 at half time after an end to end conclusion to the first period.
In the second half Woodfield pressed hard and Oliver Rose made a fine run before setting up Amaan Malik whose shot was saved by Woodrush keeper Connor Davis.
Aliyan Razzaq was next to threaten for Woodfield with a fine run which produced an excellent goal-saving tackle from Daniel Martin-White, whilst Silijan Isufi headed just over.
The Greens defended well though and had their own chances when Hayden Purves broke away, only for Cartwright to rush out and save.
However, there were no further goals and, following a 1-1 draw, the match became the first final to go to extra time.
There was no score in the first half although Woodfield’s Rose shot narrowly wide after a great run.
In a breathless, exciting second half of extra time, there was a tremendous atmosphere as the enthusiastic crowd roared on their teams and, in the most dramatic five minutes of the six finals so far, Taylor seemed to have won it for Woodfield with another long range strike.
However, Woodrush refused to give up as Jacob Shepherd continued to run strongly and pass well and their pressure led to a penalty which Shepherd converted to level the score at 2-2 and take the final to penalties – again, for the first time in this competition.
In a tense shoot-out it was 1-1 after four kicks and the stage was set for Shepherd to hold his nerve and slot home to win the cup for Woodrush.
Redditch United manager Liam McDonald presented the cup and medals and the man of the match award, which went to Shepherd.
Woodfield will be disappointed to have missed out and it was a pity one team had to finish runners-up after such a whole-hearted effort by two evenly matched sides, as the final was a credit to their schools and another excellent community occasion.
Words and pictures courtesy of Pete Toolan.