County Cup win for Hitchin under-14s

What a season it has been for Hitchin Town Youth Blues Under-14s. The side, initially comprised predominantly of last season s Valley Sports team that won the under-13 Herts County Cup, made the step up from the Chiltern Youth League to the highly compet

What a season it has been for Hitchin Town Youth Blues Under-14s.

The side, initially comprised predominantly of last season's Valley Sports team that won the under-13 Herts County Cup, made the step up from the Chiltern Youth League to the highly competitive Eastern Junior Alliance League. Despite strengthening the squad over the summer they struggled to come to terms with the new league. Hitchin played some good football but lost five of their first six league games.

As a result of the poor start to the season, Hitchin lost a number of players to other clubs. However, this actually had a positive effect on the squad and as they continued to train hard and tried to play the game the right way, and the results improved and the side lost only three games since the turn of the year.

There were many highlights, including gaining revenge on a few EJA rivals for early defeats. The squad also went on an unbeaten trip to Italy over Easter, which included winning the Forli tournament, victory over the highly rated Rimini Academy, and a win against the San Marino National under-14 team.

However the highlight of the season came last Friday night when Hitchin played Sun Postals FC from Watford at the County Ground in Letchworth in the Herts County Cup Final. The game was a repeat of last year's final, where despite coming under a great deal of pressure from a physically strong Postals side, Valley had sneaked a 1-0 win.

Friday's game started much the same as last year with Sun Postals dominant in the first half, deservedly taking an early lead, and pressing for the remainder of the half. Hitchin defended for their lives, with Rob Norman and Hayden Dormer leading the rearguard and 'keeper Conor Dobbs making a spectacular save midway through the half.

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The management team were happy to go in at half time just one goal down, and asked the boys to try and press higher into the Sun Postals half, hold the ball up front better and most of all, believe in themselves.

The second half saw a completely different game. Sun Postals had their chances, however the game was dominated by a resurgent Hitchin side, confusing and tiring Sun Postals with wave after wave of attack. Tom Gardner went close on two occasions, before the equaliser finally came after good work from Gardner and a great run and cool finish from Jamie Black.

The last 10 minutes were frantic, this time Sun Postals held on and had their 'keeper to thank for taking the tie into extra time.

The lights came on, the crowd grew more excited and both sides slugged out an outstanding extra time period in which either side could have won, Sun Postals relying on their strength and Hitchin playing their good passing football given the time they had been playing and the pressure of the situation.

Extra time didn't produce a winner, so the game went to the lottery of penalties, and the drama increased as the five brave volunteers from each side stepped forward to take a pen.

Hitchin immediately handed the initiative to Sun Postals by smashing their opening kick against the bar and Sun Postals converted. Both sides then scored their second, Hitchin scored their third and Dobbs then levelled things up with a good save for Hitchin. Both sides scored again, Hitchin bagged their last, and finally secured the victory as Sun Postals final kick went wide.

Vice captain Callum Rennie received the shield, and skipper Rob Norman raised the Cup for the second season, and the boys (and parents) celebrated long into the night. As was the case last year, Sun Postals made a massive contribution to the game and were again very gracious in defeat.

The win was nothing more than this group of boys deserve. Despite the tough start to the season and players leaving, these lads have dug in, worked incredibly hard in training and stuck to their task all season. With some great support from the excellent new Valley Sports Academy facility in Stevenage, Advatech Ltd and a group of parents who have believed in the coaches and the ethos of the club. Blues have ended the season on a well deserved winning note. The management team's focus now switches to recruiting some additional new players to complement the cup winning squad and to propel the club forwards in the EJA.

The Hertfordshire County Cup Under 14 winners are: Conor Dobbs, Callum Rennie, Elliot D'Souza, Rob Norman, Hayden Dormer, Harry Busbridge, Alex Condon, George Atkinson, Billy Lannon, Jack Large, Kieran Barton, Jamie Black, Tom Gardner.