16th May 2018
Congratulations to the York College/i2i Football Development Centre, who have been named second best college team in the United Kingdom, following their match against Robbie Fowler’s Football Academy in the ECFA (English Colleges Football Association) National Play-Off Final at Port Vale.
(photos courtesy of Matthew Appleby)
The Sim Balk Lane team, in partnership with i2i Football Academy, were looking to build on their recent successes an aiming to be recognised as the best provider of college football in the UK. However, after a brilliant ‘Invincibles’ season for the first team, winning their Category 1 league to be crowned the best team in Yorkshire, this accolade unfortunately proved one step too far.
The Final became a nervous affair for the unbeaten York College side, who started the game having not conceded a single goal in the previous three rounds of the National Play-off Final (the college equivalent of the Champions League). The game started with the Fowler Academy putting York College’s back four under sustained pressure, adopting a very direct style of play. This prevented York from getting a foothold in the game, to play their much revered possession-based football. However, the game sparked into life in the 9th minute, when York College’s Owen Marshall had a header cleared off the line from a corner, highlighting an area of weakness from the opposition failing to deal with set pieces.
In the 31st minute, the opposition scored their first goal. The York team were caught in possession of the ball in their own half, allowing the Centre forward for Fowler academy to bear down on goal, before squaring the ball resulting in an easy finish. Yet York didn’t panic. Within a minute of conceding, York’s Charlie Birley slotted the ball home after a lovely pass from Max Tweddle - only for the assistant referee to raise his flag ruling the goal offside. This seemed to set the tone for York, ruling out any chance of the extra bit of luck the team needed. It wasn’t long until York found themselves 2-0 down after a fumbled cross fell to the feet of a Fowler player, who scored from close range. Luck seemed to change for York, when Donald Chimalilo danced through the Fowler Academy’s defence only to be brought down in the box, securing a penalty for York College. Sean Hunter stepped up to take the spot-kick, only to see his shot saved by the goalkeeper to ensure the opposition held their 2-0 lead at the break.
The second half saw a strong resurgence from York College, with the team really putting the opposition under pressure. However, after 62 minutes Fowler extended their lead, taking advantage of poor marking from a corner. This resulted in a free header, making the game 3-0. York again showed their resilience and tenacious attitude, instantly putting the opposition on the back foot. Chimalilo won his second penalty of the game, giving Ed Jackson the opportunity to pull a goal back from the spot. Jackson duly obliged, sending the keeper the wrong way to give York hope of a comeback with 26 minutes of the game left.
York saw the opportunity to take advantage and sensed the oppositions nerves in the final 25 minutes of the game. While they continuously applied pressure to score more goals and edge back into the game, Fowler Academy delivered the final hammer blow on the 73rd minute, scoring their fourth and quashing any hopes of a York Comeback.
Sports development centre Coordinator Gaz Lee said after the game “It’s hard not to be disappointed for the boys, after a brilliant season and in the case of the majority of the squad a brilliant two years this will be their final game for the college. Myself and the coaching staff from i2i have told the boys how immensely proud we are of them for their achievements this year, being unbeaten in the league, the best team in Yorkshire and to be officially the second-best college football programme in the country. We have told them not to let this game define what a brilliant journey they have been, on but to use it to fuel their future.”