Substitute Jordan Hodges’ second half strike gave Hartpury’s junior footballers their second silverware of the season with victory in the English Schools FA Elite Schools and Colleges Cup.
Hodges’ goal on 67 minutes was enough to secure his Hartpury side a 2-1 win over Monkseaton High School and the title of being the best school and college football side in the country. It’s the third season in a row that Hartpury have won the title, but the first in its new format.
Paul Tassell’s team, who dominated for most of the game, scored first through Kingsford Adjei but were pegged back just after half-time as Monkseaton’s Luke Grant equalised. It was Hodges’ goal which secured Hartpury their first national title of the season as they held out for the final 30 minutes.
Hartpury football coach, Paul Tassell, said: “It’s a great honour to be able to say that we’re the best college and school side in the country. The team have been amazing this season and they fully deserve to be crowned champions. Credit to Monkseaton, they made life difficult for us but we showed our composure and were able to come away with the win, which I’m delighted with.
“There was a lot of pressure on us coming in to the game as we looked to win the title for a third year. The lads have been fantastic all season and it really was a team effort. To have Jordan progress from the second team and come off the bench in his first appearance for the first team and to score the winner is what it’s all about.”
Hartpury had started the brighter of the two sides in the opening exchanges and Frank Arhin had a chance early on with a free kick before good work between himself and Kingsford Adjei gave Kieran Alder a chance.
Alder then saw a chance cleared off the line following more good work from Adjei and Arhin before Troy Walters’ through ball saw Adjei brought down on the edge of the box, with the resulting Arhin free kick saved by the Monkseaton keeper.
Tassell’s side then thought they had opened the scoring when the opposition goalkeeper appeared to take the ball back over the line after catching a corner, but their appeals were waved away by the referee.
Monkseaton did manage a couple of shots on target but nothing to trouble Hartpury’s shot stopper Max Harris before a scrappy interchange on the edge of Monkseaton’s box saw Adjei find some space on the left before scoring in off the post just before the break.
The second half started more evenly than the first with chances for both teams before Monkseaton levelled on 54 minutes through Luke Grant. A long ball forward was then lofted over Hartpury centre back Staten’s head before Grant finished past Harris to make it 1-1.
Hartpury weren’t pegged back for long though and after Arhin and Brock had seen half chances go begging, Hodges’ restored Hartpury’s lead sliding in to finish Adjei’s cross after playing a neat one-two with him.
Joe Harrison then saw a volley from a corner fly over the bar and Hodges was put through again but was denied by a well-timed recovery tackle from Monkseaton’s centre back.
The final period was dominated by some great defending from both sides and a professional display from Hartpury saw them see out the game as 2-1 winners to be crowned the best college and school side in the country.
Hartpury’s trophy cabinet this season already includes the English Colleges FA Premier League Category 1 Under-19s league title. Tassell’s side are also still in the hunt for the ECFA National Play-Off Championship and they will play FAB Academy at home on Wednesday 26th April in the semi-finals.