Delight for Devon as U14s Reach National Final

It was penalty shootout glory for Devon as they sealed their place in the ESFA National County Cup Final on Saturday.

English Schools FA Under 14 Girls Inter-County Cup Semi-Final

   Devon 3 – 3 Hertfordshire

(After extra-time)

5 – 4 on penalties

Played at Devon County FA Headquarters, Coach Road, Newton Abbot, 09.03.2024

Devon progress to final after epic contest

There was huge anticipation from both sides for this one, evident in the pre-game atmosphere created by the noisy supporters of both teams. A nervous kick off meant an immediate call to action for the Devon defence but the ball was soon down the other end of the pitch and in the back of the Hertfordshire net. Just ninety seconds had passed when Sophie Pearse ran on to a Jess Westacott through ball and blasted it past Erin Cavanagh in the Hertfordshire goal. 1-0 to Devon! The dream start got even better on five minutes as Pearse capitalised on a misplaced back pass and hammered the ball in from close range. What a start for the Devon girls, most of whom had yet to touch the ball. Their joy was short lived however as, virtually from the restart Hertfordshire had a goal back, Freya Mahendran running through the Devon defence to strike from the edge of the penalty area.

After such an electrifying start the game could only go one way and both defences tightened up restricting attacking threat to a minimum. In the twenty first minute Hertfordshire’s Sofia Bacur was put through but shot straight at Emily Bown in the Devon goal, with Bown also making a stunning diving save to prevent an equaliser. Devon’s Brooklyn Brothers blasted a twenty five yard strike just wide as the game became more of a battle for midfield supremacy which was largely being won by Hertfordshire’s outstanding Annabelle Tang. Devon weren’t helped in this battle by the loss of midfielder Kennedy Garside who picked up a foot injury shortly before half time. The half time break came with the score remaining 2-1 to Devon.

The second half began with Hertfordshire on the attack and, in the forty first minute, Mia Schillaci-Rowland saw her shot from the edge of the box comfortably dealt with by Bown. Three minutes later they drew level after a corner was not dealt with in the Devon box, and Mahendran was waiting to turn the ball over the line. Bown then saved well from Jessica Marriner before Devon lost a second key player as central defender Ella Rowe was forced off with a nasty ankle injury. Rowe’s injury was as a result of her making an incredible goal saving challenge inside the penalty box. Devon responded well to the necessary reshuffle of positions and players, and got on the front foot again in search of the winner.

In the 58th minute Amber Zhang hit her strike from a good position straight at Cavanagh. In the 70th minute Pearse, clean through, drew a good save from Cavanagh. Two more good chances for Devon went begging in time added on. First, Pearse played the ball into the path of Jasmine Legge whose strike went wide. Seconds later Pearse, free in the box, placed her effort over the bar. Normal time ended with the score 2-2, and extra time to come.

Unsurprisingly, both teams were looking tense as the game entered extra time and Devon were showing signs of fatigue, with several young players having to play in unfamiliar positions against a superb opposition. Evie Parrott the pick of the bunch at right back. The first chance of extra time fell to Hertfordshire with Bucur’s shot from the edge of the box well saved by Bown. But it was Devon who took the lead again with Chloe Curtis nodding in from a corner. Hertfordshire were stung by that and through Tang had virtually all of the play in the second period of extra time. Just as it looked as though Devon would hold on for a huge win, it was Tang who found space in midfield before finding Marriner who blasted her shot from twenty five yards across Bown and into the far corner of the net. It was a stunning goal and sent the Hertfordshire players, staff and supporters wild.

A breathless game ended 3-3 and a penalty shoot out would be needed to decide which of these two excellent teams would go through to the final to face Lancashire. It was Devon who prevailed thanks to five fantastic penalties. Molly Stroud and Maisie White responded to Hertfordshire’s two successful opening penalties before the first miss of the shoot out from Hertfordshire allowed Chloe Curtis to give Devon the edge at 3-2. Hertfordshire scored their remaining two penalties, sandwiched by a well taken Jess Westacott spot kick to set up a grand finale for Devon captain, Brooklyn Brothers. The noisy crowd fell silent as Brothers made the long walk forward. Cool and composed she placed the ball down, waited for the referees whistle before slotting the ball home to send Devon through to the final.

An incredible game of football, with emotions clear to see on the faces of everyone present at full time.

Player of the match – Annabelle Tang (Hertfordshire)

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


Written by Dennis Smith
Devon County FA