Devon School Girls Through to National Semi-Finals

On Saturday evening, Devon Schools FA U14 Girls reached the semi-finals of the English Schools FA Inter County Cup.

Devon Schools FA 2 – 1 Middlesex Schools FA

(After Extra-Time)

Played at Devon County FA Headquarters, Coach Road, Newton Abbot, on 13-01-2024

This eagerly awaited quarter-final match took place in the early evening with temperatures seldom rising above 3 degrees, but the Devon girls, playing on the front foot throughout, kept the home crowd warm with an entertaining brand of attacking football, which should have led to a more emphatic victory. However, thanks to goals from Sophie Pearse and Jessica Westacott, the latter in extra-time, it is Devon who go through to play at home in the semi-final against Hertfordshire Schools.

Middlesex kicked off but Devon were straight on to the attack with Pearse and Westacott finding room down the flanks. The Middlesex defence stood firm however, and in the fifth minute they could have gone ahead, Lois Billett finding space between the Devon centre backs only to see her shot from the edge of the box safely gathered by Amy Lockyer in the Devon goal.

Devon’s response was positive, and they put Middlesex under pressure for the remainder of the first half but were unable to fashion a clear cut opportunity. In the 10th minute Pearse fired a shot over the bar from twenty-five yards and four minutes later won a corner on the right. Westacott swung the kick into the near post where Amber Zhang saw her shot blocked by Holly McLoughlin in the Middlesex goal.

On 19 minutes Devon’s captain, Brooklyn Brothers, breaking forward saw her shot from twenty-seven yards crash of the crossbar and away with McLoughlin beaten. Devon were now in complete control, but the breakthrough would not come.

In the 24th minute Westacott broke through down the right and fired a cross over to Maisie White, racing in from the left only to see her shot ripple the side netting. Two minutes later Brothers saw her fierce shot from the edge of the box pushed for a corner by McLoughlin, who was by far the busier of the two keepers, albeit that Devon’s profligacy in front of goal meant that she was not really being tested.

Shots from Kennedy Garside in the 30th minute and Molly Stroud in the 33rd both missed the target and so the half drew to a close with score at 0 – 0.

Middlesex came out for the second half and started to cause Devon’s defence problems. In the 37th minute they could have gone ahead but for Lockyer saving well  from Billett. Devon went straight back onto the attack, Stroud having her shot blocked and, two minutes later, Garside seeing a fierce drive from the ‘D’ just clear the crossbar.

In the 42nd minute Middlesex went ahead as Lois Billet capitalised on a defensive mix up and sent a low cross to Grace Dwyer at the back post to tap home.

The shock of going behind after having so much possession galvanised the Devon girls who poured wave after wave of attacks towards the Middlesex goal. In the 42nd minute Stroud saw her twenty-five yard free kick saved and then the game turned into a battle for midfield supremacy with the Devon girls coming out on top.

In the 50th minute Westacott, getting on the end of a cross from Pearse, drew a fine save from McLoughlin. Devon were not to be denied however and in the 52nd minute they drew level. Westacott swung in a corner from the left which the Middlesex defence were unable to clear and there was Pearse to blast the ball home from close range.

With five minutes left on the clock Garside went on a rampaging run from midfield, leaving four defenders in her wake as she broke into the eighteen yard box, only to be denied by McLoughlin who saved well at close range. In the last minute Devon had a good chance to clinch the match, Stroud floating a twenty yard free kick towards the far post which the strikers were unable to get on the end of, the ball sailing harmlessly wide and the game ending in a stalemate to be decided by extra time of ten minutes each way.

Both teams coaches had been making effective use of the rolling substitution system which made for a great game however, the first period of extra time produced little of note save for a shot from Zhang close in which was blocked by McLoughlin. The teams changed ends and almost immediately Devon went ahead, Pearse racing down the right and crossing for Westacott to blast her shot home giving McLoughlin no chance.

Two – one to Devon now but Middlesex were not done yet. In the final minute they were awarded a free kick, one of only a very few in the game, just outside the eighteen yard box. Up stepped Ellie Beels who steered her shot with pace over the Devon wall, only to see it well saved by Lockyer. This was the last action of the game, and it is Devon who deservedly progress to the semi-final.

Player of the Match – Molly Stroud (Devon)

Devon Squad:- Amy Lockyer (Queen Elizabeth, Crediton), Jasmine Legge (Coombeshead), Ella Rowe (Eggbuckland CC), Chloe Curtis (Tiverton High School), Molly Stroud (Hele’s School), Sophie Pearse (Sir John Hunt), Kennedy Garside (Sir John Hunt), Brooklyn Brothers (Ilfracombe Academy), Jessica Westacott (Cullompton CC), Maisie White (Eggbuckland CC), Amber Zhang (Torquay Girls Grammar), Subs Isabella Lewis (Plymstock School) Evie Parrott (Plymstock), Farrah Ambrose (Torquay Academy), Annette Atkin (Devonport HS for Girls), Layla Dent (Honiton CC).

Report written by, Dennis Smith.