17th March 2022
The ESFA’s North of England Finals
After four months of anticipation, the ESFA’s North of England Finals finally arrived. Nine teams, nine county champions, were all together at Washington Hub to compete for the title of North of England Champions, with the top two teams going through to represent the region in the National Finals. The nine teams were from Cheshire, Merseyside, Cumbria, South Yorkshire, Cleveland, Northumberland, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, and of course Durham; represented by Emmaville Primary School.
**Spoiler alert – because it’s a long write – but Emmaville are progressing onto the National Finals!**
The tournament was organised into two leagues, with the winners of each league playing the runners up of the other league in the semi-finals. The two winners of the final would compete for the North of England title but both would be going on to represent the region in the National Finals.
Emmaville were in League A with the county champions of Cheshire, Merseyside, Cumbria and South Yorkshire. First match was against St Michaels of Cumbria. It was a tough opener and after taking a deserved lead through Sam, Emmaville were pegged back by a late equaliser for a 1-1 draw. 1 point on the board.
The second game was against St Margaret Mary of Merseyside. The team put in an improved performance to win 1-0, again with a super solo goal from Sam. 4 points on the board.
Up next was Upton Heath from Cheshire who had won all three of their games so far. Emmaville very much upped their game, putting on their best performance and playing some beautiful football as well as showing 100% commitment. The team outplayed Upton Heath but were unable to find the finishing touch, and came away with 0-0 draw which could easily have been a big win for us. 5 points on the board. As has so often been the case in this campaign, the final match was the decider. If we drew or won, we were through to the semi-finals. If we lost, we were out.
In a difficult match against Bradway from South Yorkshire, the boys put in a hard-fought 12 minutes to defend against an impressive team. Chances were few for Emmaville but the commitment to not lose was there for all to see and we came out with a 0-0 draw. This saw us through to the semi-finals against League B winners, Russell Scott from Greater Manchester.
The Emmaville team were completely up for this match, knowing it was a must-win game, and they put on their best performance of the competition. Every player worked hard for the team, played their positions well and moved the ball confidently. Chance after chance was created with Emmaville putting Russell Scott under relentless pressure for the whole match but were just unable to score. At the end of 12 minutes it was 0-0 and it went to penalties. Five players were to take penalties and our keeper, Jake, was there to try and save against the opposition. A special mention should go to Mark who was the first person to step forward as the first penalty taker which took a lot of bravery. Up he stepped and coolly converted for Emmaville. Russel Scott were next and scored their first too. 1-1. Harvey was up second and confidently scored. 2-1. Next, Russel Scott for their second, but an excellent save from Jake stopped it. 2-1. George stepped up for our third and made it 3-1 with a well-taken penalty. Russel Scott with their third; but again, a save from Jake to tip in on the bar. 3-1 to Emmaville. Lewis stepped up knowing that if he scored, Emmaville were through to the final. And that he did. A super final penalty followed by jubilation and celebrations from players and fans alike. Emmaville were through to the final, but also through to the National finals.
After the euphoria of the semi-final win, it was the final against an excellent Holland Moor from Lancashire who showed their quality and clinical finishing with an impressive 4-0 win against Emmaville. The boys gave their all in the final but against a very good side and with tiredness, injuries and illness playing a part, the team just came up short of being champions. Whilst the defeat was disappointing and the team in particular felt it, it should not take away from the amazing achievement to get to this stage and go on to the National Finals. We have also shown in the past that we can come up against a team that has beaten us before and change that result the next time.
So, champions of Blaydon and District, champions of Durham County, and now runners up of the North of England and progressing on to the National finals in May where we will compete in an eight-team tournament against the seven other best U11 school teams in England. Whatever happens in the national finals, we will go there to win; this team, and the school can be immensely proud of their achievements – setting new milestones with every tournament. Come on Emmaville!