Hartpury’s hopes of retaining their English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) Boys Colleges Trophy received a major boost yesterday when this year’s Under-18s squad booked their final berth with a dominant semi-final showing.
A first-half double from striker Joe Bates set Hartpury on the right track as they produced a polished and efficient performance to come away with a 4-0 win over London-based St Charles Sixth Form College.
Second-half goals from substitutes Callum Townsend and Klaus Reeves ensured Hartpury’s place in the final against Gateshead College.
Hartpury showed their attacking intent early in the contest with wingers Ryan Davies and Tyler Brock looking threatening down both flanks.
The team were almost ahead after 12 minutes when a long throw saw centre half George Lamb – who has been selected for the England Schools Under-18s squad for the upcoming Centenary Shield internationals – head his effort toward goal, with the keeper equal to it.
Three minutes later, a raking ball from left back Lewis Fogg found Brock deep at the back post, who managed to divert his header across the goalmouth and into the path of Bates to guide into the goal.
Hartpury’s sweeping football was causing problems and they had doubled their advantage before the 20th minute.
A marauding run from right back Joe Pickering saw him cut inside and play a delicate through ball down the byline to Brock, whose first time cross was met powerfully at the back post by
Bates, who steered his header past the keeper.
Hartpury were beginning to run rampant and they could have been three up but Brock was unable to latch on to a Davies cross.
Despite this dominance, a lapse in concentration from a goal kick by goalkeeper Ed Cox almost saw their opponents pull a goal back but centre half Sid Gittens was on hand to clear a goalbound effort.
Hartpury were unfortunate not to increase their lead before half-time when midfielder Ben Hands saw his rasping drive from the edge of the box tipped away by the keeper, while Davies saw his volley hit the woodwork after good play from Brock.
The second half followed the same pattern and only a last ditch tackle prevented Bates from pulling the trigger after a fine ball from Fogg.
The striker had a chance to score his hat-trick but his volleyed effort inside the box saw the keeper produce a sharp save down low at his near post to deny him.
In the 68th minute, a looping header from Brock – who scored for the England Colleges squad in Wednesday’s win against Wales Colleges – found the crossbar, while another mazy run from Pickering saw his cutback just evade the oncoming Townsend.
Bates had a couple more sights at goal to secure his personal treble but the youngster was thwarted both times by the keeper. However, Hartpury made the game safe in the 81st minute when Townsend’s half-volley from 12 yards whistled past the keeper and into the net.
In the 85th minute, winger Reeves capped off a very strong performance from the whole squad when he was on hand to tap in the rebound after Lamb’s header from a long throw crashed against the woodwork.