The First Form football team is still celebrating after sailing through to the ESFA National Cup semi-finals. After everything conspired against us in the quarter-finals, it was the fantastic skill and game play from the team that saved the day and secured our place.
The team couldn’t be more proud or excited! It all started when were drawn to play against Langley School from Norwich, in the quarter-final of the National Cup on Monday 19th February. We planned to leave at 10am, stop for lunch on the way and arrive in plenty of time. However, half way into our journey there was a problem, non-stop rain and faulty windscreen wipers presented us with a real issue!
As a result, we had to stop much earlier than we anticipated. We waited in a service station for around two hours before an engineer came to help us fix our ride. That meant that the kick off time would have to be delayed, so our preparations were far from ideal. When we arrived, Langley School were very understanding and allowed us time to warm up, ready for our big quarter-final fixture.
At St. John’s we have some very quick players on our team, so our game plan was to start fast. We aimed to make passes through and over their defenders, allowing our quick players to run onto the ball and create chances.
Within the first two minutes, we sensed this was our best tactic as their defenders were unable to deal with the fast pace. Joshua Elash created our first chance when a ball was played through by our midfield, cutting in from the right-hand side, but their goalkeeper made the save.
We continued to put Langley under pressure, but couldn’t seem to find a way past their goalkeeper. The first 15 minutes seemed like one-way traffic, before we finally scored the goal we deserved. Joshua Elash again forced a good save from their goalkeeper, who pushed the ball out for Gabriel Morgante to tap it back in. 1-0 to St. John’s.
We continued to dominate, and we didn’t ease up on the pressure. We doubled our lead with a fantastic passing move, which included our whole midfield. Jola Akimbola went around Langley’s goalkeeper and cut the ball back to Harrison Dudziak, who sent it firmly into the bottom corner.
We appeared to be heading into half time with a 2-0 lead. However, with 30 seconds to go, Jola Akimbola hit the post, rebounding the ball to Joshua Elash, who decided to try to score. The ground was very wet, the ball skimmed the grass and Joshua missed the target by inches.
At half time we had a 2-0 lead, but we were disappointed as we felt we could have done more. We demanded more during the second half, as the team worked hard to find themselves in a commanding lead.
The second half started a lot slower than we would have liked, and Langley increasingly grew into the game. The next goal was going to be very important, and luckily St. John’s gained it. Joshua Elash beat their offside trap, and sent the ball flying past their goalkeeper. Langley managed to score a goal to make the score 3-1, this was a tense moment as a free kick from Langley was hit very hard, and our goalkeeper Malek Boukassa struggled to save it.
The goal gave Langley some hope, and we were beginning to look tired as we had worked hard up to this point. The last 10 minutes of the game required more hard work and dedication to get us over the line and into the semi-final – and the students delivered. Joshua Elash put a mistake from earlier behind him and scored another incredible two goals to make the score 5-1 to St. John’s - securing his hat-trick.
The final moments left us nervous, but it was a well-deserved and convincing win for St. John’s - from the first whistle, our students showed dominance and a great can-do attitude.
Each of the students, from our goalkeeper to our substitutes, deserve a huge amount of credit for their determination and willingness to win – it was simply amazing. We will find out who our next opponents are on Monday 26th February. If we are drawn to play away, we could be travelling much further than Norwich in the semi-final of the National Cup.