Hartpury’s footballers are fighting for honours on two fronts next Wednesday (March 25th) with the university first XI and Under-18s first team looking to secure silverware in their respective finals.
First up is the Under-18s squad, who face Myerscough College in the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) Boys Colleges Trophy final at the Keepmoat Stadium, home of League One outfit Doncaster Rovers (kick-off 3.30pm).
The senior side then take on Stirling in the BUCS National Championship final at Loughborough (kick-off 7pm), with Marc Richards’ side looking to clinch the title for the first time since 2011.
The Under-18s will be looking to bring the cup back home to Hartpury for the first time since 2010, and Paul Tassell’s squad will be hoping to use their recent experience at the Roma Caput Mundi tournament to good effect.
The side were selected to represent the English Colleges FA (ECFA) at the major international youth tournament, finishing with an unbeaten record in a competition that featured seven other teams, who were either full Under-18s international teams or international amateur teams.
Tassell, Hartpury’s junior football programme manager, said: “It was a fantastic experience for the whole side to take part in the tournament and the perfect way to prepare for this final. We have come back from Italy with a real spring in our step and it has shown at training this week.”
After receiving a first-round bye in the competition, Hartpury progressed through a further five stages against teams across the country to make it to Wednesday’s final.
Their route was particularly tough with the squad taking on reigning champions Sparsholt College in the last eight while facing off against Stanmore College, winners of this competition in 2013, in the semi-final.
On the back of a Mustapha Bundu hat-trick, Hartpury despatched the holders 4-1 while a second-half comeback in the semi-final saw the team advance through to the final with a 2-1 win, Bundu again weighing in with a brace, taking his tally to an incredible 16 goals in that competition.
They will take on a Myerscough side who secured their final berth in emphatic fashion with a 5-1 victory against the College of West Anglia.
Tassell said: “The lads have performed really well all season and deserve to have reached the final. Myerscough are a very good team but hopefully we can produce one more match-winning performance.”
Hartpury’s university team meanwhile will be returning to familiar ground after coasting past Loughborough in last week’s semi-final.
Two goals from midfielder Mitch Botfield and a strike from winger Ross Staley ensured a 3-0 win over last year’s beaten finalists and the squad now take on current holders Stirling, who beat Hartpury in a close encounter in the quarter-final stage of this competition two years ago.
After finishing second in the BUCS Premier South division, Hartpury produced an efficient performance in the quarter-finals with a 2-0 win over Northumbria before their East Midlands exploits in the last four.
Richards, Hartpury’s senior football manager, said: “The group of players we have been working with this year deserve to be in a national final. However, Stirling are the reigning champions and it will be an extremely tough game against a very strong university side.
“Our performances have continually improved throughout the season and if we can carry our form into Wednesday’s final, we will give ourselves the best possible chance of winning.”