Prep boys ranked 5th in country for football
Head of Year 5 at the Prep, Peter Whitmell, gives an account of the U11 ISFA National Finals held at St George’s Park, London last week:
On Wednesday 10 May, the Prep’s U11 Football Team travelled to England’s football training base, St George’s Park, for the ISFA National Finals. A healthy purple-parent army came along with the boys, providing medical expertise, sports nutrition and a formidable wall of noise on the touchline.
If the boys were nervous they didn’t show it, racing into a 2-0 lead against Dulwich Prep School, with a poacher’s finish from winger Ned, and a fine left-footed volley from the Prep squad’s only U10 player, Tobias. A resurgent Dulwich piled on the pressure in the second half, but a fine defensive effort from Jonathan and Freddie saw the Perse through to the full time whistle as 2-1 winners.
Two draws were to follow against Foremarke Hall and Berkhamsted Prep, despite dominant and composed performances from the Prep. Tobias added to his goal tally with a composed finish after an exceptional run from inside his own half. Henry, in the Perse net, produced a number of fine saves to keep the team in contention for qualification.
The Perse then played the current group leaders St Bede’s. Once again a wonder strike from Tobias saw the Perse take the lead, cutting in from the left flank and bending a dipping strike into the top right corner. The lead quickly became two, after a fine cross was diverted into his own net by a St Bede’s defender. Despite a strong fight-back from a physically imposing side, Jonathan and Jack more than held their own at the back and Perse ran out 2-0 winners.
The Perse were narrowly beaten in their final group game by the New Beacon School, and were visibly tired after having to play two games back to back. Despite this setback, the boys finished the group in second place, only beaten by the group winners, and progressed full of confidence into the knockout rounds.
The boys made a flying start against St George’s Prep, with attack after attack repelled by some fine defending and strong work from the opposition keeper. Corner after corner was thrown into the box, and the pressure seemed to weigh on St George’s, who were very lucky not to concede a penalty as the game neared its conclusion. Heartbreakingly for the Perse, St George’s were able to hold onto their clean sheet and nick a goal on the break, with only a minute to go on the clock. St George’s went on to win the whole competition.
The boys went on to play for the 5th – 8th places in the country. Playing Claremont School, the Perse dominated their opposition, refusing to let the opposition’s talented midfielders have any time on the ball. Hugh’s incessant work upfront was rewarded with a tap in, while Freddie scored one of the best goals of the tournament from long range, and Ned raced onto an outstanding through ball from James, to slot home in style. Team Captain Henry epitomised the boys’ tenacity as he stole the ball from an opposition defender and battled his way through two more Claremont players, before hammering his finish into the bottom corner, leaving the Perse as emphatic 4-0 winners.
The 5th – 6th place playoff at the National Finals would be the team’s last game of football as Prep students. With emotions running high the boys took to the field against Cumnor House, eager to make the most of the experience. Hugh, once again, was exceptional, never letting the opposition rest on the ball and chasing every lost cause. A fine individual effort from the Cumnor House striker saw them claw a goal back, but the boys remained composed, keeping the ball well and seeing the game out until the final whistle.
Looking back on four years of hard work from his players, the coach, Dan Nicholes, was full of praise for the boys. “I am so proud of the boys for reaching the National Finals and finishing 5th overall. Having had the pleasure of coaching these boys for 4 years, it was a magnificent way to complete their season and football at the Prep! I couldn’t have asked for any more on the day, they were the hardest working players on the pitch in every game and I wish them the very best for the future.”