Orphanage Cup final
S7 Soccer Academy 6
Great Harwood Windows 1
at AFC Darwen

S7 Soccer Academy wrote themselves in to the record books after winning a third successive Orphanage Cup.

Not since the great British Northrop Loom Co Ltd team of the 1950s has a side managed to win three on the trot.

Many have tried and many have failed since.

In recent years, Shaws of Darwen, Ultraframe, Blackburn Teachers and Red Rose Dryling all managed two on the bounce but never three.

The Teachers and Red Rose did go on to win it three times in four years.

While there are some who suggest that S7 – made up of football coaches and players who have played Non League and amateur football to a high standard – have an unfair advantage there is no doubting their domination in recent years.

Great Harwood Window put up a good fight but S7 just had too much class in all departments.

In fact, the damage could have been a lot higher had S7 been more clinical in front of goal – Daniel Stubberfield and Lewis Hamlin the main culprits.

Clearly it was a day when the pair failed to practice what they preach when it came to art of finishing, although Hamlin did go someway to make amends with some fancy footwork and good strike for the holders fourh goal.

With S7’s impressive approach work going to waste – Stubberfield, Hamlin, Chris Bailey and Zack Dale all failing to hit the target – it was a good old fashioned set piece that finally broke through the Great Harwood defence.

Midway through the half, Dale swung in a free kick from the right that Ryan McKenna met with a thumping header.

Until then, Harwood had lived a charmed life as chance after chance went begging for S7 – although keeper Ian Garsden and centre back Danny Heppensall more than rose to the challenge. Garsden saved well from Stubberfield and was solid under the high ball while Heppensall made his mark with a well timed tackle on Hamlin as he raced in on goal.

Great Harwood’s forays upfield were fleeting. Brad Gorman swung in a few crosses from the right but no-one was there to meet them.

Ash Cox volleyed wide from a partially cleared ball.

But in Liam Oldale, they had a player whose pace and trickery gave the S7 defence cause for concern. And from one such run, Great Harwood were unexpectedly on level terms when Oldale forced a foul out of Jake Errey in the area.

The striker picked himself up and confidently stroked his spot kick beyond Spencer Harrison in the S7 goal.

A shock on the cards was extremely unlikely although Great Harwood were next on the attack when Liam Hindle struck a volley in to the midriff of the S7 keeper.

The two-time winners should have regained the lead but their failure in front of goal continued when Hamlin blazed over following a good flick on from Errey.

But thankfully for them, their set piece was functioning and McKenna rose to head home a second, this time from a Stubberfield corner.

The half ended as it had begun, another S7 miss, Hamlin volleying wide from Stubberfield’s cleaver through ball.

But S7 soon had the comfort of a two-goal lead when Bailey finally found an end product to his pacey and direct game, sweeping home after another good delivery from Stubberfield.

Great Harwood hit back with some nice interplay between Gorman and Anthony Lynch on the edge of the area before the latter fired narrowly off target.

At the other end, Stubberfield fired over the bar before Hamlin finally found the target from arguably his toughest chance.

He still had plenty to do when he got the ball just inside the area but a drop of the shoulder and some fancy footwork took him beyond the last defender before drilling his shot high in to the roof of the net.

Oldale continued to be the one player who kept the S7 defence on their toes and one surging run and cut back gave Cox the simplest task but he scuffed his shot and hit the post.

Moments later Steel went close with a long range chip that was deflected just wide. From the resulting corner, Gorman headed over.

That was as good as it got for Great Harwood by way of an attacking threat.

Although Garsden capped his own impressive display – and heaped more misery of Stubberfield – with a fine penalty save then kept out his follow up.

But a fifth goal did arrive when Dale surged in to the area and was fortunate to see his underhit shot creep inside the near post.

While Stubberfield was having an off day in front of goal, his approach play was superb and his excellent through ball was bettered by a brilliant finish by Dale, flicking the ball with the outside of his boot to bamboozle Garsden.

It was a fitting way to end a victory for S7 Soccer Academy who cemented their place among the competition’s elite – although they still have some way to go to catch the 10 victories the all-conquering British Northrop Loom Co Ltd managed in the heady heights of the 1950s and and 1960s.