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Eton 3 Dulwich 1

The weather leading up to the 27th January - semi-final day - had been atrocious.  However, the gods were kind to us, as were the grounds staff, who had two days of dry, crisp weather which enabled them to get Mespots ready for the big event. 


Tuesday 27th Jan arrived and the sun shone, the sky was clear and the pitch, although heavily sanded in the middle, looked immaculate.  Both teams lined up for their biggest test of the season.  I had said to my team that we needed a fast start and they didn't disappoint.  Dulwich seemed lacking in confidence, and the Eton players ripped into them, giving them little or no time to settle.  Eton won a corner and from the in swinger, Joe Morris climbed unchallenged at the far post to head home (see photo).  Five minutes into the game and Eton were 1 - 0 up.  It was just a dream start.  Almost from the kick off, Eton again harried and made life difficult for the Dulwich players who gave the ball away in their own half.  Fahad Shah, Eton's captain, picked up the ball just inside the Dulwich half, beat one player, then rounded the last defender.   He raced into the penalty area and slotted the ball into the goal, past the on-rushing Dulwich keeper.  2 - 0 - time to pinch ourselves!


The Dulwich players were shaken into life and suddenly started to show what they were all about.  Eton sat deep, making sure the Dulwich star player, Bradley Goldberg (an England U16 player and scorer of all 3 goals in Dulwich's quarter-final against Hampton) was closely marked.  Aly-Khan Damji and Joe Morris, along with the other defenders (Hector Butler & Oliver Radway) made sure they weren't going to let the lead slip by giving him, or any of their other players, room to even things up. 


Just before half time Dulwich forced a corner.  A decent ball was played in and Freddie Fox Andrews, the Eton goalie, helped to scramble the ball away for another corner - well into injury time.  Another superb delivery and this time one of the Dulwich players got a head to the ball.   2 - 1 and the whistle went for half time. 


What a disastrous time to let them back into the game.  Now it really was game on!  We knew Dulwich would have a different outlook on the game.  It would be all out to try to get the equalizer, and sure enough it was.  The second half was great for the neutrals.  Again, the Eton goal wasn't really threatened - the defence played magnificently and made sure that anything that got through the midfield - especially Jamie Giddins -  the defence mopped up.  In fairness to Dulwich, their keeper had little to do in the second half as well.  It was really box to box that all the action took place.


The clock was running down, Dulwich tried substitutes to see if they could unlock the Eton defence.  On the massive pitch, the Eton boys ran themselves into the ground.  They gave no quarter, chased every lost cause and Dulwich just didn't get the time and space they needed to create the football that they would have liked to play. Vedat Ratib and Henri Ashe Taylor  (see photo) defended from the front for Eton, chasing everything and never allowing Dulwich to settle.   Eton players grew tired and two substitutions were made - Nicky Devas on for Ferdy Campbell and Alastair Lyon on for the injured Elliott Charles.  With nothing left on the  clock Eton were awarded a free kick on the right hand side of the penalty area.  I was screaming for the boys to run the clock down, to hit it into the corner and keep possession.  However, up stepped Oliver Radway with a different idea: he smashed the ball hard and low, under the wall and into the bottom of the goal, low to the keeper's left.  It was unstoppable!  3 - 1 to Eton and game over - or was it?  On my watch we were now three minutes into injury time - and we hadn't really had any injuries.  The Eton players ran over to the spectators to celebrate, whilst Dulwich seized the moment.  They grabbed the ball, the ref allowed a re-start and they charged towards the Eton goal.  In slow motion, the Eton players turned round, made futile attempts to get back to help the two or three beleaguered defenders who had remained focused, but it was too late.  The Dulwich players rounded the defence, past the on-rushing Eton keeper and slotted the ball goal bound.  As hundreds of Eton supporters gasped, the ball rolled harmlessly wide of the keeper's left hand post.  It just wasn't to be Dulwich's day. 


The ref blew his whistle and the dream became a reality.  The Eton U15 team had realised their goal and had made it to the final of the Rensburg Sheppards ISFA Cup for the first time.  They had battled, out fought and outplayed Dulwich.  Every Eton player just about crawled off the huge Mespots pitch.  They had been asked to go out and try their hardest, to come off at the end with nothing left to give and they didn't disappoint.  It seemed these Eton boys wanted to be in the final more on the day and now they have their chance to do it all again at the Burton Albion ground, the Pirelli Stadium, on Thursday 5th March against the holders, Manchester Grammar School.


Just as a post script, both coaches were chatting afterwards and agreed, despite what was at stake, there wasn't a nasty challenge in the whole game.  The referee didn't have to speak to a single player about bad behaviour, language or foul play.  The crowd, despite edging forward to get a closer look, were extremely well behaved and I think it was an excellent advert for what schools  football is all about.  Long may this continue!



Glen Pierce

DATE POSTED: 07 February 2009

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