WALKWOOD extended their Redditch United Schools Cup Final wins total to four thanks to an extremely hard-fought 2-1 victory over St Bede’s.
The TRICO Stadium was once again the venue for the final of the competition, first staged in 2010 after being organised by TRUST (Redditch United Supporters Club) in liaison with the club and Redditch Sports Partnership.
Year eight teams from the middle schools in Redditch play each other in two leagues, with play-offs to decide who goes through to the final at the home of the Reds.
This time around it was inaugural winners Walkwood and two-time champions St Bede’s in action in the ninth final and the outcome was in doubt until the final whistle.
Walkwood made a strong start and were rewarded after nine minutes when they broke on the right and James Lev chipped the keeper to make it 1-0.
St Bede’s almost equalised on 29 minutes when Luke Baldwin came close after a swift attack but shortly before half-time Walkwood went 2-0 up when Lev played in Arran Richmond to finish a sweeping move on the left.
However, St Bede’s were far from finished and reduced their arrears on 39 minutes when Paul McCarthy scored from a corner.
Urged on by the skilful George Wynne – later awarded the man of the match accolade – St Bede’s pressed hard for an equaliser with some excellent passing football which forced Walkwood to defend stoutly and rely largely on the counter-attack.
Matty Hitchens, one of several contenders for man of the match, was kept busy in the Walkwood goal, making a couple of good saves and handling safely throughout.
Despite the best efforts of St Bede’s, they could not restore parity and it was Walkwood left to celebrate in front of a crowd of more than 200 parents and pupils who created a tremendous atmosphere throughout.
Jacintha Hodgson, managing director of Redditch United, presented the cup and medals at the end of another excellent community occasion made possible by generous support from Redditch United Supporters Club and the Reds, who provided qualified referees who gave their services free of charge, commemorative medals for all the players and food after the game.
THERE may have been Schools Cup Final disappointment for St Bede’s, but the team were able to celebrate being crowned district nine-a-side champions.
After going so close in the past couple of years, St Bede’s won the title in emphatic fashion on the fabulous new 3G surface at Woodfield.
After qualifying for the finals before half-term, joining St Bede’s in the finals were Ipsley, Birchensale and Walkwood and the tournament was played on a league basis with each finalist playing each other once.
St Bede’s and Walkwood defeated both Ipsley and Birchensale in their opening two matches apiece to set up a winner-takes-all final game between the leading duo, with St Bede’s knowing a draw would suffice due to a superior goal difference.
The final match was a superb advert for schools football, with both teams showing real quality and commitment. St Bede’s scored shortly after half-time and could have added two more but for the heroics of the Walkwood goalkeeper, but a 1-0 win was more than sufficient for St Bede’s to triumph.
Ipsley defeated Birchensale 2-1 in those two sides’ final game to clinch third place.
The hunt for more silverware goes on for St Bede’s who are still involved in the County Cup and the English Schools’ Football Association PlayStation National Cup.
Report compiled with the help of Pete Toolan.