The euphoric team from John Betts School raised aloft the Mayor’s Cup for the first time after seeing off all-comers in a hotly-contested finals day in Fulham.
It may have been a cold and grey day, but the performances on the artificial turf brought some real heat and colour to Hurlingham Park on Friday (22 March).
The finals event is the culmination of a season that began in September and includes some 80 fixtures played by 33 teams of 10, or 11-year-old players from across the borough.
Speaking after the trophy presentation, organiser Callum Fairley said: “It's been played in good spirit, in the right spirit. There's been some great games.
“It's been a fantastic season and all played to the Schools Games values, of passion, determination, loyalty and honesty.”
The 33 teams were split into two pools for both north and south, with the four groups playing one another in a round-robin format. The top two teams from each of those groups then progress to the finals event, which includes quarter finals, semi-finals and the grand final.
Drama from the start
Those fixtures saw some drama early in the day’s competition. In the first quarter final for the north, Good Shepherd defeated Addison 1-0. A surprise result as Addison had not conceded a single goal in eight previous fixtures. In the second north quarter final, John Betts narrowly pipped St Stephen’s 1-0.
In the southern quarter finals, St John’s beat All Saints 2-0. Competition history was made in the second fixture, as Sir John Lillie played out a 0-0 draw with St Paul’s leading to a dramatic penalty shoot-out. After more than 10 penalties were taken each, having gone through all the players once, Sir John Lillie won the shootout by just one goal to nil.
In the sharp-end of the competition, the quality was clear from the first whistle with the talented youngsters displaying skill, guile, passion and physicality belying years.
John Betts faced Good Shepherd in what turned out to be the more comfortable fixture. The team in green and gold putting two unanswered goals past their opponents. They thought they had a third, but it was ruled out by the referee – all the referees were volunteers from Fulham Football Club. They didn’t mind, as they’d got a place in the final.
On the opposite side of the field, the game was more closely-fought with the balance shifting between Sir John Lillie and their opponents from St John’s. Having equalised to 1-1, St John’s pushed on to a 3-1 lead, before Sir John Lillie got a goal back. But it was not enough and St John’s held on to secure a place in their second successive Mayor’s Cup Final.
The final was a showcase of two different playing styles. The fast and physical John Betts, taking on the skilful St John’s players, with the Betts boys taking an early lead on the counter-attack.
As St John’s enjoyed possession and forced several cracking saves from the John Betts ‘keeper, they left themselves exposed at the back and were punished when the clinical John Betts striker latched onto a long ball to fire home a second.
The second half continued in much the same way, with St John’s coming close several times, but were just unable to break through the green defensive ranks. Their fate was sealed as John Betts found the back of the net with two more goals that even got the neutrals in the crowd cheering at their quality.
The 4-0 scoreline at the final whistle did not reflect the close game and the St John’s boys were left wondering what happened, while the Betts boys were revelling in a deserved first Mayor’s Cup win.
Great team performances
Speaking of his team’s win, John Betts coach, Luke Craig, said: “It was a great team performance. They saved the best 'til last. They didn't start too well but improved.
"They went the whole season unbeaten. Overall I’m impressed with their great team performance.”
“I've told them losing one game doesn't make them a bad team,” said teacher and coach at St John’s, James Welch.
“This is the second year in a row they've lost in the final. They tried to play football, they tried to play the right way and I hope they will be better for the experience of having lost.”
Congratulations to all the competing school teams
Addison, All Saints, Ark Swift, Avonmore, Brackenbury, Flora Gardens, Fulham, Fulham Bilingual, Good Shepherd, Greenside, Holy Cross, John Betts, Kenmont, Larmenier and Sacred Heart, Lena Gardens, Melcombe, Miles Coverdale, Normand Croft, Old Oak, Queen’s Manor, Sir John Lillie, St Augustine’s, St John’s, St John XXIII, St Mary’s, St Paul’s, St Peter’s, St Stephen’s, St Thomas of Canterbury, Sulivan, Thomas’s Academy, Wendell Park, West London Free School, Wormholt Park.
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