ONE of the county’s biggest junior football leagues has brought the curtain down on anaother succeussful season.
Over the last four weekends, the East Lancashire Football Alliance, sponsored by Forbes Solicitors and McDonalds, have held 18 cup finals at the home of AFC Darwen and at Oswaldtwistle St Marys FC.
There have been highs and lows, thrills and spills and plenty of magic moments for players, coaches and spectators – with the vast majority of games being decided by a single goal.
Two finals were decided by the dreaded penalty shoot-out in which Clitheroe Wolves U10s Yellow and Todmorden SC U14s held their nerve to defeat Readstone U10s and Globe BP U14s respectively.
AFC Darwen hosted its first set of finals with Great Harwood Rovers Green U13 winning the first final 2-0 against Crown Paints and then Fulledge Colts Red U13s defeating Mill Hill Red U13s 3-0 in the cup to seal the double. The day was finished off with Padiham FC U18s also completing a league and cup double by beating Fulledge colts 3-0 The following Sunday the venue changed to the home of Oswaldtwistle St Marys FC who hosted all the mini soccer and 9v9 finals.
The under nines teams have played all season in development leagues but the FA allow a certain number of weeks where a cup competition can be played.
To start with, all 32 under nine teams were split into eight groups and depending where each team finished in their respective cup they were placed into one of four knockouts In the U9 Bowl, Darwen Rangers Blue beat Crown Paints Blue 4-2 while AHF defeated Pendle Forest flies 3-2 in the Trophy final.
The last two finals saw Clitheroe Wolves Yellow beat Rossendale United Lads 4-3 and the cup final brought some ecstatic scenes as St Josephs overcame Mellor 3-2 in a real ding-dong battle.
In the U10 Cup, Great Harwood Green beat East Lancs 5-2.
At Under 11s, Hyndburn Youth completed their double by overcoming a spirited Rossendale Valley Wasps team 1-0 while in the cup, Rishton U11s Red made up for the disappointment at losing out on the league title by beating Whalley Juiiors 6-2.
Pro Future U12s finished off a marvellous season by winning the Under 12s Cup final 2-1 against Barrowford Celtic as they also won the League and made it to the final of LFA U12 Cup.
In the U12 Trophy final, Blackburn Eagles narrowly defeated Blackburn United Yellow 1-0 in a very close and keenly contested match AFC Darwen was the venue for the U15s Cup and Trophy finals and the U16s Cup final.
Neil Swarbrick the Premier League referee officiated the Trophy final in which Darwen Rangers romped to 7-2 victory and in the Cup final, Athletico Knuzden completed a league and cup double beating Lammack 2-1.
The day finished with Langho U16s Maroon – who the previous week had lost a play-off with Pro Future for the League title – overcome Bacup Juniors.
The finals finished off with two midweek games after the pitch was declared unfit.
On Wednesday. Lammack U14s overcame league runners-up Mill Hill 1-0 and on Thursday it was the last and arguably the most exciting final between Globe BP U14 and Todmorden SC.
Globe equalised from a great free kick in the last minute of normal time and then went ahead in extra time only for Todmorden to equalise in a mad goal mouth scramble in the last few seconds of extra time.
In the penalty shoot-out Todmorden SC held their nerve to win the trophy.
“This season we had 25 different leagues and six of these went into the last weekend of the season before the eventual champions were decided and two more leagues needed a play-off as team’s finished joint top,” said league secretary.
“I would like to thank all the teams who have taken part this season and each league has proven to be close and competitive.
“While we salute those teams who have managed to win some silverware we hope every player, every manager and every parent has enjoyed the experience each week.”