Under-12s Finish Season in Style
Blackpool FC Under-12 girls capped off a fine season by winning the Northern Champions League tournament in Leeds over the weekend.
Invited to participate on merit, all teams in the prestige tournament were either league winners, runners-up or cup winners. It was also a great tactical test for manager Mac Barlow and assistant Lucy Briggs against the best teams in Northern England.
Group Stages - Blackpool 0 Wigton Moor 0
Blackpool's first game was against the host team Wigton Moor, which a closely contested match. Both teams looked to break down the well organised defences, with Pool’s defensive trio of Aleysha Montgomery, Daisy Molyneaux and Katie O’Donnell looking strong and determined in defence. Despite some good link play from Hannah Bettison and Laura Burnell, the game remained goalless.
Group Stages - Blackpool 2 Burton Belles 0
Next game up was against Burton Belles, a cup winning side from South Humberside who looked disciplined and resilient in defence. Pool probed, trying to find a way through and finally did when Grace Gordon scored a well taken goal at the crucial time. Pool’s second came from a Sophie Slater strike, effectively sealing the victory.
Group Stages - Blackpool 1 Knaresborough Celtic 0
The third game in was Knaresborough Celtic, winners of the City of York League for two consecutive seasons and tough opposition. Blackpool's forwards, consisting of a determined Olivia Golden and Lucy Flynn, were working hard and looking for a way through. It wasn’t until the ball fell nicely for Darcy Barrett that The Seasiders found a winner.
Group Stages - Blackpool 1 Handsworth 0
The final game in the group stage was against a Handsworth side who boasted a record of being unbeaten for four seasons in the Sheffield and Hallamshire Girls Leagues and having just completed their third consecutive double. Although there was some excellent midfield play from Sheneill Lymer, it needed a 20-yard strike from Slater to break the deadlock and put Pool into the semi-final.
Semi–Final, Blackpool 1 Preston 0
It seemed ironic to travel all the way to Leeds to play a local derby. Pool had already played Preston in the league twice and held them in high regard as a well organised and capable team. Goalkeeper Gracie Jones was in fine form, commanding her goalmouth, looking confident and assured. To break the deadlock it needed something special, and it came when Slater drove her shot 25 yards into the top of the Preston goal to progress Pool to the final.
Final, Blackpool 0 AFC Manchester 0 (AET)
(Blackpool win 5–4 on penalties)
With their recent league and cup encounters, these two teams knew each other very well and had played some tremendous games of football over the last season. AFC had experienced defeat to Pool and it was evident that they were going all out for a win. However, with the ever reliable defensive trio of Molyneaux, O’Donnell and Montgomery in breathtaking form and keeper Jones pulling off some outstanding saves and handling, AFC failed to find the elusive goal and this game remained goalless, even after extra-time.
A dreaded penalty shoot-out was now the only route to victory. There had been limited success from penalties for Pool in previous tournaments, but the girls didn’t seem to be fazed by this. Slater, Gordon, Jones, Lymer and O’Donnell converted from the spot to make Pool winners of this prestigious tournament.
Well done girls! A fantastic end to a great weekend.
Manager Mac Barlow commented:
We'd been looking forward to this trip for quite a while and I have to say what a fantastic tournament it turned out to be. It's always nice to play against unknown teams and clubs of a very high standard from other leagues so to go there, play six games and not concede until the penalty shoot-out in the final is just tremendous. Credit goes to the girls who played very well against tough opposition and showed great character and willingness to achieve their success. We scored some great individual goals and looked solid throughout the day, which is pleasing to see. Well done to all the players and parents for their fantastic support.