ONE thing was for certain, Darwen Aldridge Community Academy would be crowned Lancashire Schools FA Under 19s County Cup winners – it was just a matter of which team.
In unprecedented circumstances, DACA ‘A’ took on DACA ‘B’ in a final where friendships were put to one side for 90 minutes.
A decent turn-out from fellow students, friends and family braved the wind and rain at Chorley FC’s Victory Park where the ‘A’ team were out to try and clinch the league and cup double while the ‘B’ team were out to stop them.
DACA’s second string knew the key was to keep the first teamers at bay for a long as possible – unfortunately for them, that happened to be about five minutes.
After Liam Grimshaw was fouled on the edge of the area, Connor Gaul curled a free kick in to the ‘corridor of uncertainty’ and Danny Rutherford did enough to distract keeper Patrick Loughlin and the ball sailed straight in.
It was the worse possible start for the the ‘B’ team put they soon put it behind them and had a great chance to grab an instant equaliser but Brad Naylor headed wide from Dylan Abbott’s corner.
The ‘A’ team were always posing more of a threat on the break with the fleet-footed pair Mason Ralph and Elliott Danson carving out plenty of chances that Danny Rutherford and Grimshaw who couldn’t quite capitalise on.
But in big Jordan Rolfe, the ‘B’ team had an out-ball and a willing worker who caused his markers bags of trouble.
‘A’ team keeper Scott Grant had to be alert to save at Rolfe’s feet after the striker swivelled superbly in the box. But he missed the target with a header after good work by Ryan Carroll and Harry Starkie down the right flank.
The final was still perfectly poised until a moment’s lapse of concentration from the otherwise solid Joe Jones in the ‘B’ defence saw him miss control the ball and Rutherford was through in a flash, racing clear and planting his shot beyond Loughlin. Two goals in quick succession then put DACA ‘A’ in control.
A wonderful run by Gaul saw the winger pick out Grimshaw and his blocked shot luckily rebounded in to the path of Rutherford who scored from a tight angle.
The ‘A’ team’s fourth goal was a touch of class, Grimshaw arrowing in his shot from the edge of the area.
But DACA ‘B’ had a lifeline just before the break when Jones atoned from his earlier error when he nodded home from close range after Carroll’s free kick had caused confusion in the area.
The next goal was always going to be crucial. A goal for the ‘B’ and they were right back in, a goal for the ‘A’ team and the trophy was virtually theirs.
Mac Scott was inches away from cutting the deficit but fired just wide before Grimshaw scored his second outstanding goal of the game – controlling a through ball from Pedro Monteiro in an instance then cleverly lifting the ball over Loughlin.
The ‘B’ team continued to push forward and Dylan Jackson-Cooney forced a fine save out of Grant before a free kick in a promising position ended with a breakaway sixth goal for the ‘A’ team, Rutherford racing away to complete his hat-trick.
But at least the ‘B’ team had the final word, Carroll’s free kick – just like Gaul’s in the game’s opening goal – evading everyone and nestling inside the far post.
n DACA ‘A’: Scott Grant, Brad Thomas, Liam Devlin, Luke McKenna (captain); Brad Wilson, Connor Gaul, Scott Stringfellow, Mason Ralph, Elliott Danson; Danny Rutherford, Liam Grimshaw. Subs: Pedro Monteiro, Oliver Wensley, Danny Sumner n DACA ‘B’: Patrick Loughlin (captain), Ryan Carroll, Rob Wong, Brad Naylor, Joe Jones, Elliott Brown; Harry Starkie, Jake Wright, Mac Scott, Dylan Abbott; Jordan Rolfe.Subs: Ryan Grogan, Lewis Todd, Dylan Jackson-Cooney, Ross Danson.