Hartpury’s footballers face one more hurdle as they bid to retain the English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) Boys Colleges Trophy – a final showdown with Gateshead College on Wednesday (kick-off 12pm).
The Under-18s first team will be looking to emulate last year’s squad, who secured the trophy after a thrilling extra-time win over Myerscough College. But they face the sternest of tests in Gateshead College, who Hartpury have had many close encounters with in the past.
The two sides will lock horns at League One outfit Doncaster Rovers’ Keepmoat Stadium, with Paul Tassell’s side looking to produce the same form that saw them sweep aside St Charles Sixth Form College by four goals in the semi-final.
Tassell said: “It’s always a great achievement to make it to a final and I’m extremely proud of all the lads. Our team was very inexperienced this year but they’ve grown so much throughout the season and it’s great that they’ve got a final to look forward to.
“We know it’s going to be an extremely tough game as, like us, Gateshead are always challenging for titles but you want the final to be fought out between two strong sides.”
The squad’s route to the final was almost cut short in the first round by Cirencester College but a second half comeback saw them come from 3-1 down to run out eventual 5-3 winners.
The team then produced a fantastic display in the fourth round to see off Yeovil College 16-0, with striker Joe Bates scoring five. Bates has led the line well throughout the competition with 11 goals but the team showed their resolve in the quarter-finals as they squeezed past Farnborough Sixth Form College on penalties.
“The journey to the final is testament to the strength and resilience of the whole team and they’ve really dug deep and grinded out results when they had to,” Tassell added.
“It’s exactly the type of experience you’d want a side to go through as they learn so much more from it. The lads can’t wait to fly the flag for Hartpury on the national stage and continue our story of sporting success. We just need one more big performance on Wednesday.”