Girls off to Wembley?

Girls off to Wembley?

Wembley could be calling for Tupton Hall School’s U13s girls footballers who were crowned area champions after representing Chesterfield FC in the Football League Kinder+ Sport Football League Trust Girls Cup.

The area finals were held on Friday 16th January 2015 at the DW Sports Fitness Centre in Derby and showcased some of the finest footballing talent in Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire. Hundreds of schools had entered the competition in the hope of reaching the final 8.

Ten teams played in the area final, slpit into two groups of 5, with the top two teams from each group progressing into the semi finals. The Tupton girls (Leyla Bettney, Olivia Buckley, Elizabeth Clayton, Abbie Greaves, Mollie Stanley, Katy Webster and Emma Wilbourne) playing as Chesterfield, found themselves drawn in group A with Mansfield Town, Notts County, Doncaster Rovers and Burton Albion. Group B consisted of Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Derby County, Nottingham Forest and Rotherham United.

Tupton had to wait a while to get their tournament underway as the fixture list meant they would be the third game on, in a match that saw them face local rivals Mansfield Town. The girls showed no signs of nerves as they came racing out of the blocks, with Mollie Stanley firing them into the lead in the first minute of the game. The front 3 of Stanley, Elizabeth Clayton and Emma Wilbourne were proving far too hot to handle for the Mansfield defence in a one sided game that saw Chesterfield win 6-1, with Stanley scoring 4 and Clayton 2.

Tupton’s second group game was against Doncaster Rovers. After both teams had comfortably won their opening games, it was expected to be a closely fought game that would have a significant impact on the group standings. With confidence levels high after a convincing performance against Mansfield, Tupton continued where they left off with an incredible first half performance which saw them take a 4-1 lead into the half time interval. It was Stanley again flourishing in her role as a striker as she secured a first half hat-trick and Clayton again chipped in with a goal from midfield. Doncaster were much more positive in the second half but Olivia Buckley and Leyla Bettney were standing firm at the back and it was Tupton who added more goals to the game through Stanley and Wilbourne, who got her first of the tournament to complete a second successive 6-1 win.

Mid way through the group stages, Tupton found themselves in a strong position in the group and only one win away from guaranteeing a semi-final place. Their third group game saw them play Burton Albion and the girls were showing no sign of tiring as they once again took control of the game from the first whistle. Abbie Greaves and Buckley were beginning to form a fantastic partnership in defence and Katy Webster was a spectator in the net as Tupton comfortably secured their passage through to the semi-finals with an 8-0 win.

The final game of the group saw Chesterfield (Tupton)  face Notts County in a game that would decide who would be going through as the group winners. Both teams had won all of their previous games, but Notts County were above Chesterfield on goal difference by one goal, meaning Chesterfield needed a win to top the group. As had been the case in their previous games, the Tupton girls got off to a flyer once again, taking a 3-1 lead into the half-time interval, thanks to goals from Stanley (2) and Clayton. Notts County looked the brighter of the two teams at the start of the second half, pulling a goal back almost immediately after the break. County were laying siege on the Tupton goal with Greaves and Buckley staying strong, but another long distance strike completed a fantastic comeback for County. With the game finely poised at 3-3, both teams were pushing on for a winner in a game that proved to be the most dramatic of the tournament. With less than a minute on the clock the game could have gone either way, but it was County who found the winner to score 4-3 and progress to the semi-finals as group winners, closely followed by Chesterfield in second.

The semi-finals provided the tournament with two local derbies as Notts County’s reward for winning the group was a game against Nottingham Forest and Chesterfield faced Group B winners Derby County. Derby had comfortably won all of their group games, so the Tupton side knew they would have to be at their best if they were going to make it through to the final and give themselves a chance of becoming area champions.

The girls have become accustomed to been supplied with sweets by the Tupton staff on away fixtures this season, and the Starburst that they were shovelling down clearly provided a short burst of energy as they once again started the stronger of the two teams. An excellent start was rewarded as goal scoring machine Mollie Stanley once again got herself on the score sheet with two early goals to give Tupton a 2-0 lead. A very talented Derby team were quick to respond by creating a number of excellent chances, but Greaves and Buckley were staying strong at the back and Webster was proving her worth in the net by making a number of fantastic saves to keep Chesterfield in front. The relentless pressure that Derby put on the Tupton goal eventually became too much and the opponents  scored two quick goals in the last few minutes of the first half, levelling the game up, 2-2 at half-time.

Half-time saw the introduction of Bettney into an unfamiliar midfield role to try and strengthen the Tupton midfield and provide some protection for the defence. The game became very scrappy, but the Tupton girls showed determination and belief, meaning they were looking more likely to grab a winner. Stanley and Clayton both came close for Tupton. And Greaves, Buckley and Bettney were playing out of their skins to nullify the impact of Derby’s attacking players. The Tupton girls looked revitalised by the introduction of Bettney and with little over a minute to play, it was her desire and strength that won the ball back in midfield and found Clayton who was driving Tupton forward for one last push. Clayton found the feet of Stanley, who with her back to goal was able to turn the Derby defender and unleash a fierce strike into the corner of the net to give Tupton the lead. It was all hands to the pump for Tupton as Derby pushed forward in a bid to take the game to extra time with less than a minute to play, but the Tupton girls stayed strong and held on for a 3-2 victory to secure their place in the final.

The other semi-final had seen Nottingham Forest narrowly beat Notts County by 2 goals to 1, so it was Forest that were awaiting Chesterfield to see who would become the area champions. After a full day of football it was expected that the girls would start to tire, but the excitement of the final and overload of sweets seemed to do the trick as it was the Tupton side that once again started the stronger with Stanley opening the scoring after a matter of seconds. The girls were oozing confidence and their organisation and hard work was rewarded by 2 more goals before half time. Greaves and Buckley were assured and determined at the back, defending incredibly well against some very talented Forest players. This was once again supplemented by the aggression and strength of Clayton and Bettney who were breaking everything up in the middle of the park and allowing Stanley to flourish in attack. Forest were able to pull a goal back before the break, but it was Tupton who were looking stronger and seemingly had complete control of the game as they went into half-time 3-1 up.

The second half began and Tupton started on the front foot, determined not to let another lead slip. Their chances of becoming area champions were boosted straight after the break, as they added a fourth goal early on and continued to press. The girls had saved their best for the final as they put in their most disciplined performance of the competition and they reaped the rewards as Stanley added a fifth goal with a couple of minutes to play. The game finished 5-1 and Chesterfield were crowned Area Champions of the Kinder+ Sport Football League Trust Girls Cup.

"All the girls were an absolute credit to the school throughout the day. They conducted themselves in a competitive manner and showed fantastic sportsmanship throughout. The hard work, determination and quality they displayed in all their games was fantastic," said PE teacher Miss Rooney who accompanied the team alongside Mr Edwards.

"We are incredibly proud to be involved with this group of students and want to also say a huge well done to all the Year 7 and 8 girls who have been involved in the football team this year.  They have all played a part in the team’s success, despite only being able to take 8 students to this competition."

Tupton collected their trophy from Chesterfield FC's Proact Stadium on 27th January. The U13s will now travel to Barnsley during half term to compete in the northern final which will be contested by 4 teams. The winners of that tournament will progress to the national final that will be played at Wembley before the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final in March.