The following report was written by Freddie Scarborough, a student at Drayton Manor and a member of their cup-winning side. It was contributed by the school and is reproduced with thanks.
The Drayton Manor U17 football team travelled to Powerday Stadium, home to Hanwell Town FC, for the final of the U17 Middlesex Cup.
In the lead up to the match, the boys had given up much of their free time in preparation for St Thomas More High School, who had won their semi-final game 7-1. Coaches Mr Black and Mr Grudgings also worked with the team to decide on tactics for this all-important match.
Both teams started the game nervously, with some misplaced passes and simple mistakes being made. Drayton Manor soon settled into the game and began to take control of the ball. The first half contained few chances with Drayton’s closest attempt to scoring coming from a 30-yard free kick which rattled the crossbar before St Thomas More cleared their lines.
At half time, the coaches highlighted the strengths and weaknesses from the first half. When the second half commenced, Drayton Manor immediately began to control the play, with the midfield trio switching the ball and stretching their opponent’s defence. The diagonal passes allowed for more space to appear in the final third of the pitch which created more opportunities. During the second half, St. Thomas Mores’ goalkeeper made some exceptional saves to keep them in the game, while Drayton’s defensive unit prevented several counter-attacking opportunities. However, the boys weren’t able to get a goal for their efforts over the ninety minutes.
With extra-time to be played the team from Drayton Manor was hungrier than ever. Thanks to the tactics of using ‘roll-on, roll-off’ substitutions, the boys were fresh. Throughout the game, players showed great attitude to being taken off, often more than once, again highlighting the sportsmanship and cohesion amongst the team. Drayton started the first half of extra-time brightly and within a few minutes, they finally broke through. One of the strikers took on a defender at the touchline and crossed the ball in, which was finished by his fellow striking partner who elegantly flicked the ball in at the near post. It was obvious how much this meant to everyone involved, with jubilant celebrations around the ground from players and supporters alike. Despite this, the boys on the pitch knew they still had a job to do and continued to focus on the game. Another chance followed shortly after, where one of Drayton’s strikers ran on to a loose back pass, however once again the keeper made a great save, keeping St. Thomas More in the game.
The boys had made it to the second half of extra-time, the final play of their season. They had seven minutes left to do what no Drayton boys football team had been able to do since 2015. The communication of the back four meant that Drayton’s keeper was only called into action a couple of times, when he produced more than one outstanding save to keep their narrow lead intact. The support from the crowd helped Drayton Manor to keep pushing on, with the likes of friends, families, and staff at Drayton encouraging the team, while also watching on nervously. One final attack came in from St. Thomas More which was cleared by our defence, and the referee finally blew his whistle. It was clear to see what it meant to the boys, with cheers and fist pumps all over the pitch. The team shook the hands of their opponents who had given them a very tough game and thanked them for their sportsmanship.
The evening ended with our captain being presented the trophy by Drayton Manor’s Assistant Deputy Head and Middlesex SFA competition organiser, Mr Walsh.
On behalf of Drayton Manor High School, we would like to thank Hanwell Town for hosting the fixture and letting us use their pitch and changing rooms, Mr Black, Mr Grudgings, the officials, St Thomas More High School and everyone who came down to support and bring the best out of our U17 team.
Drayton Manor: Salar Jalal, Junayd Shawwal, Jermaine Theophane, Steve Gakuo, Mohammed Ali (Captain), Hadi Ahmed, Freddie Scarborough, Nathan Toogood, Ollie McEndoo, Aman Asifi, Khalil Issa, Ronne Omar, Mohamed Hassan, Issam Charama, Ronak Ladva, Mohammed Abdulrazaq, Imran Nadem