By the Touchline Observer
Last Saturday, Salford Schools’ FA Under 15’s made the three and a half hour journey up to the North East to play Chester-le-Street Under 15’s in their English Schools FA Trophy quarter final tie. In previous rounds, the Boys had won through with games against Lancaster & Morcambe (3-0), Harrogate & Craven (3-2) and Wakefield (5-1).
Confidence was high on the back of these wins as Salford warmed up on the 4G pitch at Consett AFC’s Belle Vue Stadium.
Reports of their opponents promised that a tough game lay in wait and from the off Salford had to withstand a good ten minutes of sustained pressure from a lively home side.
In that time, Man of the Match goalkeeper Jay McCaffery had to make several important stops to ensure the score-line remained at 0-0.
A series of testing corners and crosses were well defended by the away side who countered with quick breaks which unfortunately came to nothing.
Salford slowly began to ease their way into the game and loosen up after their long journey and began to probe the Chester-le-Street defence.
A couple of free kicks from both wide and more central positions near their opponents goal resulted in disappointing efforts going wide.
However, it was still the home side who were the more dominant and dangerous force with McCaffery again called into action.
The first goal for Chester-le-Street was the result of a long ball played up front to their impressive front man. He shrugged off the attentions of Luke Mann and Adam Pike to break through on the goalkeeper one on one.
This time, the advancing McCaffery couldn’t stop the shot, low from just inside the area to give the home side a 1-0 lead. Chester-le Street, buoyed by this, maintained their pressure winning another couple of corners although easily defended and then found themselves in danger of retaliation when their keeper fumbled a shot at goal which was cleared after a scramble.
The first half wasn’t quite over, when the home side scored a hotly disputed goal. A Salford free kick taken by Sam Inwood resulted in the clearance finding the Chester-le- Street front man running in behind the away defence.
He took the ball to the line with the resulting low cross easily slotted in from close range. Had the ball crossed the line before the cross? Appeals from both players and Salford officials were waved away by the referee who, after consulting his assistant allowed the goal to stand. 2-0.
A bitter pill just before half time. After a rousing team talk by managers Pete Inwood and John Peters, Salford once more tried to push on.
Ten minutes into the half they were given a possible life-line when a home player was sent off for kicking out at one of the Salford lads.
For a while, this gave the away side some momentum with attacks down the left hand side by the pacey Sam Inwood causing some concern for the away team.
However, a powerful headed goal from close range increased the home side’s score to 3-0. Salford responded and after good pressure James Westwood hit a good shot from the right side of the penalty area to make the score 3-1. Sadly, this was as much as Salford could now muster.
A penalty appeal for the Boys was turned down by the referee and with a further goal added by the home side to make the final score 4-1 in their favour, Salford’s impressive run in the ESFA Trophy was over for this season.
It’s fair to say that Chester-le-Street were the better side overall and fully deserved their win and that Salford didn’t play to their true potential.
The one player who dominated for the home side, described as ‘Shearer-esque’ was their centre forward, on the books at Newcastle, who caused most of the problems for Salford with his powerful running in behind both on and off the ball.
For Salford who worked hard and represented the City of Salford well, goalkeeper Jay McCaffery stood out with Sam Inwood, Freddie Tyler, Adam Pike and Luke Mann all having good games. Salford now look forward to a Cup Final against Bolton in the County Cup. Date and venue to be decided.