The Bob Docherty Trophy Review
Tuesday 22 April 2014By ESFA Office
England U15 Schoolgirl Team
ESFA hosted this year's competition for Under 15 Girls International squads from England, Wales, Scotland, Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Slovakia at Repton School in Derbyshire, from the 14th to the 17th of April. The school is steeped in history with many famous sporting alumni having performed on the same playing fields available to the girls, including CB Fry and Harold Abrahams and in the past year young Will Hughes who is a regular team member with Derby County and England Under 21's.
The playing surfaces were in pristine condition and head grounds man Darryl can take great pride in the sheer quality of the pitches he provided for the competition. The Republic of Ireland were the first team to arrive on the Sunday prior to the competition quickly followed on Monday morning by the England, Northern Ireland and Welsh squads. The Scots arrived soon after and last to arrive after a flight from Bratislava were the Slovakian team, the first time that continental opposition had taken part in the tournament.
The opening ceremony was held in beautiful sunshine in front of the Music School where SAFIB Chairman Nigel Brown welcomed all teams to Repton on behalf of the ESFA and wished for a competition played in the true spirit of school's football where games would be hard fought but fair and that lasting friendships would be made in the time not allocated to football.
The tournament structure was two groups of three to be played in a round robin format with play offs for final placings to be played on the final day, Thursday. Group A was made up of Scotland, Wales and England with group B pitting Slovakia and the two Irelands against each other.
First up hosts England played Wales. England dominated the game from start to finish and the only surprise was that the score was not greater than the 2-0 final scoreline and but for the intervention of the woodwork twice and some profligate finishing from the England girls it would have been a much worse score line for the Welsh. Goals from Ellie Brazil and Georgia Stanway were to prove enough.
On the adjacent pitch the Republic of Ireland met their neighbours from the north. This was a very hard fought game and an early Republic goal helped to settle their nerves. The Northern Ireland girls then battled hard for the equaliser but the Republic added a second late in the game to confirm their superiority.
Day two dawned with clear blue skies and warm sunshine greeted the players for the second round of matches. Scotland made their first appearance against the Welsh who were in action again quickly after their opening day defeat. Scotland started brightly and pushed the Welsh back with a high tempo pressing game. The Welsh girls stuck to their principles of trying to play out from the back but the Scots were too strong and direct and went into the half time break with a two goal advantage.
The second half was a repeat of the first with the Scots totally dominant and they added a further four goals to their tally to run out comfortable 6-0 winners. The Welsh girls worked hard but were outclassed by a powerhouse Scottish performance.
The second game of the second day involved Slovakia and the Republic of Ireland. This would prove to be the crucial game in this group. Ireland started well but the Slovakians showed great technical ability and were able to cope with the Irish forays and were quick to counter attack. Both teams were showing real quality and the Irish drew first blood with a well worked goal. The Irish were now in the ascendancy and doubled their lead midway through the second half to give them a cushion. When the Slovakians reduced the deficit late in the game the Irish were forced to defend well to maintain their winning margin. The 2-1 win put the Republic of Ireland into first place and playing on Thursday for first or second place.
Our Continental Guests - Slovakia U15's
Tuesday night saw the official function take place where the delegates from all participating nations and the SAFIB and ESFA officials sat down to a formal dinner hosted by Chairman Nigel Brown with Bob Docherty as an honoured guest. Gifts were exchanged after speeches with all looking forward to the following days football, especially the tie involving the 'auld enemy'.
Another clear blue sky and unbroken sunshine welcomed the teams to day three of the competition. The touchline pundits were in general agreement that the tie involving England and Scotland would be a game that would have graced the final as the consensus was that these were the two best teams on display.
The rules of the competition are such that goal difference had no bearing on standings and a drawn game would be decided on penalties with the winning team claiming three points and the losers one.
England v Scotland at any level is always fiercely competitive and this Under 15 girls game would be no different. England started very well and played excellent football from the off. The players looked confident on the ball and the Scots were working very hard to deny England shooting opportunities but could not get a foothold in the game. The England management of Sarah Steadman, Miranda Hall, Andy Williams & Andy Norwood had the girls well drilled and it came as a blow when completely against the run of play Scotland took the lead. Lost possession and a hopeful punt over the top caused split second hesitation between the keeper and the back four and that was all that was needed to give Scotland the advantage.
England responded well and put the Scots under tremendous pressure winning numerous corners and dominating possession so it was no surprise when midfield powerhouse Jess Jones equalised with a shot that the Scot's keeper could only palm into the net. Parity and no more than England deserved. England were attacking at will and the possession football was proving very effective so much so that Georgia Stanway was able to put England in front after some outstanding team play.
England were in total control and the Scots had no answer to England's passing game but a piece of good fortune turned the game on its head. Awarded a free kick 40 yards from goal the Scottish fullback hammered the ball goalwards. It should have been an easy catch but the England guardian made an error of judgement and pushed the ball into the roof of the net. It was not the last time the keeper would be involved in the drama of this game.
2-2 was the final score despite a dominant England performance and penalties awaited, the winner of the shootout going forward to meet the Republic of Ireland for the right to play for the trophy.
First up England skipper Brenna McPartlan. A miss, over the bar. Scotland score. Niamh Cashin for England 1-1. England's keeper with a stunning save restores parity. Georgia Stanway puts the ball over the top and Scotland score. Katy Gigg replies and the Scots slot the penalty to stay ahead. The tension on the touchline was palpable with many parents and coaches turning their heads away.
England notch through Jess Jones so Scotland need to score to reach the final, cue Charlotte Johnson with an outstanding save to take the tie to sudden death. A few seconds from the coaches to decide the order and battle recommenced. England score and Charlotte's brilliant diving save denies the Scots a place in the final for a third year running and wild celebrations from the English girls demonstrate how much winning the tie meant to them.
A breathtaking and heart stopping tie which had all of the elements of what is good and great about schools football.
The team of Officials
The second match was played out between Slovakia and Northern Ireland. The Irish suffered two serious injuries with players needing hospital treatment and the Slovaks won the game comfortably 2-0.
Thursday was finals day with the England v Republic of Ireland saved until last. Northern Ireland and Wales played for 5th and 6th place with Northern Ireland winning the game by 2-0. Slovakia and Scotland fought out a 0-0 draw in a close affair with the Slovaks hitting the bar and bringing out a couple of top class saves from the Scottish keeper. A tie for third place.
England were confident that they were capable of lifting the trophy for the first time and totally dominated possession against a Republic side who seemed intent on keeping the game very tight. Their plans were blown out of the water within minutes when Georgia Stanway rifled a left foot half volley into the top corner of the Irish net with one hundred and twenty seconds on the clock. It was a strike that would have graced any final anywhere at any level such was the quality. This encouraged England to greater efforts and Ellie Brazil who had worked tirelessly throughout the tournament harried the Irish defence into an unforced error, strode forward and passed the ball into the net. 2-0 at half time.
Surprisingly the Irish were loathe to commit forward to try and retrieve the situation and England were content to retain possession and sit on their lead. As the clock ticked down the Irish began to try and assert but were unable to apply any meaningful pressure and it was only England mistakes in possession which gave them a glimmer of light. The only real controversy of the tournament happened with ten minutes remaining. Niamh Cashin went for a tackle and the referee under pressure from a section of vociferous Irish supporters dismissed her from the field of play. Almost to a man the judgement was seen as far too harsh and added a real sour note to the proceedings.
The England girls responded in the best possible way and scored a third goal from the spot when Katie Gigg converted after an Irish hand stopped a goal bound effort. 3-0 was the final score allowing England skipper Brenna McPartlan to lift the Bob Docherty trophy for England for the first time.
A fantastic week of girls football which showcased the immense talent of so many of these young players. It allowed lifelong friendships to be made and brought together six nations to play the beautiful game in beautiful surroundings. Apart from the odd political fallout the Tournament was huge success and delivered all that it had promised in football terms. A couple of lasting memories include a whole team of Hucknall boys turning up to support Niamh Cashin and being very proud to be photographed with the only girl in their team wearing her England kit. The mutual support that the Irish teams gave each other was heart warming and once again sport and in particular football became a vehicle for understanding and friendship.
Congratulations to all teams and participants, you were all winners.
More photos from the event can be found on www.rwt-photography.co.uk
Bob Docherty Champions: England