Silkstone 2 Upperthong Tigers 3
Sheffield County FA
Under 16 Cup Final
A NICE ground, a nice day, two RCD teams and a thrilling game combined to make it a perfect Cup Final for everyone involved in Huddersfield junior football – except, perhaps, the Silkstone team and their supporters.
Hallam FC is the oldest football ground in the world and the sun shone brightly as Upperthong attempted to win the cup that last graced their trophy cabinet over 20 years ago.
Upperthong, for many years the most successful club in the RCD League, have hit on lean times in recent years but, under the guidance of manager Russell Kaye, the Under 16 ‘Tigers’ have hit a rich vein of form.
Having captured the Under 15 league title and the Huddersfield Minor FA Trophy last season, the Holme Valley side are still in the running for a possible league and cup double this term as they aim for a remarkable treble.
Silkstone, on the other hand, are one of the area’s newest club. Formed just nine years ago, the club have enjoyed a steady growth and now have five teams in the RCD league of which the Under 16s could be the team that bars the way for Upperthong’s treble aspirations.
The sloping Hallam pitch was always likely to have an effect on the game and, playing with the slope, Silkstone set about taking advantage in the first half with speedy breaks which posed a constant threat throughout.
But Max Berry, Blaine Rowan, Jack Sewell and Tom Collier put up a superb defensive wall to spoil Silkstone’s plans, reducing their shooting chances to hopeful efforts from the edge of the area and, on the couple of times when they did manage to fashion a clear sight of goal, keeper Chris Snaith proved his worth by pulling off a couple of terrific saves from shots by Sam French and Joel Matthews.
Silkstone didn’t have it all their own way, however, with William Wilson and Tom Halton providing much-needed relief for Upperthong with some strong runs down each flank, earning several corners to keep defenders Tim Brook, William Hunter, Sam Boswell and Nicholas Thompson busy.
Kaye looked to have given the Holme Valley side the lead after 25 minutes with a shot from the right, but the striker was disappointed when his effort flew just wide of the far upright.
At the other end, Jordan Painter was given too much time and space in front of goal, but his hurried shot from 15 yards flew high over the bar, and Silkstone were soon made to regret their missed chances when Snaith’s clearance found Wilson, whose chip fell kindly for Richard Marshall to round the keeper and slot home to give Upperthong a 1-0 lead.
With the slope now in their favour, Upperthong started the second half on the attack and, when Halton struck a superb 15-yard, left-foot volley to double their advantage within five minutes of the re-start, the Tigers were in total control.
And, when their lead was extended to 3-0 five minutes later thanks to a cool Wilson finish, Upperthong seemed to have wrapped up the win but, Silkstone’s French, Perry Daulton and Painter were convinced they could still turn the game and the Tigers were given no time to sit on their laurels.
With Silkstone driving forward at every opportunity, the Upperthong defenders were visibly wilting under the heat of the day and, within minutes their lead was cut back when the ever-dangerous and determined French pounced to drive the ball into the net when Snaith was unable to hold a vicious Jonathan Roberts’ shot.
Although Upperthong’s decision to defend their two-goal cushion with some 20 minutes remaining handed the initiative to Silkstone, they seemed to have weathered the storm until, with just five minutes remaining, Snaith brought down Ben Armitage to hand Silkstone another chance.
Painter stepped up to dispatch the resulting penalty and set up a nail-biting finale to the game but, despite five minutes of added time, Silkstone were unable to force an equaliser and Upperthong held out to lift the trophy for only the second time in their history.
Silkstone will feel very disappointed not to have done better as their performance was at least equal to their opponents.
But wayward finishing in the first half did not help their cause and is something they might be working on before they face Upperthong again next week in the semi-finals of the RCD League Cup.