Youngsters from Bleasby Primary School suffered heartbreak yesterday as their dreams of playing at Wembley fell at the final hurdle, as they represented Mansfield Town FC and Football in the Community at the EFL Under 11s Kids Cup Regional Final, held at Bolton’s Eddie Davies Academy.
Bleasby won the opportunity to represent the Stags in December after progressing through our area qualifiers and area final, and made it all the way to through the Regional Finals to the tournaments concluding match – the winner of which progressed to Wembley Stadium to play on the hallowed turf prior to the Sky Bet League Two play-off final.
Mansfield, represented by Bleasby, competed against eleven other schools who won their respective local finals held by the eleven other League Two clubs, falling into the Northern Sector.
The Stags were drawn in Group B against Lincoln City, Notts County, Morecambe, Tranmere Rovers and Grimsby Town – playing each side once in matches of 15 minutes straight through – making a string start with two wins from their opening two games, a 2-1 win over Lincoln and a 3-2 victory over Tranmere Rovers.
Notts County were up next and Mansfield really stepped up their game, recording a resounding 6-0 victory over the Magpies. Grimsby and Morecambe were the other contenders in the group and proved tough opposition in the final two group matches – Grimsby came from a goal down to salvage a 1-1 draw meaning that regardless of other results, Mansfield needed at least a point against Morecambe to progress to the days semi-finals.
Mansfield suffered a nervy start going a goal behind but soon clawed the game back into their control, holding a 3-1 lead. A late goal from Morecambe made the last few minutes nervy for the Stags, but a resilient defensive display kept Morecambe at bay – meaning Mansfield topped group B, earning a slot in the semi-finals.
They would face the runner up from Group A, which consisted of Oldham Athletic, Crewe Alexandra, Port Vale, Bury, Macclesfield Town and Carlisle United, the latter finishing as runners up so would face the Stags in a twenty minute all or nothing showdown – which the Stags triumphed 6-3.
Meanwhile Grimsby had a comfortable 3-1 lead over Oldham in their semi-final but saw a tremendous fight back from Oldham dump them out of the competition, Oldham winning 5-3 to face the Stags for a place at Wembley Stadium.
Oldham had been free scoring in their group and provided a stern test for Mansfield, leading 1-0 at half time, the Stags threw everything at Oldham and did manage a goal but were caught four times on the break, losing 5-1.
Gary Shaw, Community Manager and PL Primary Stars lead, said “It was a fantastic effort from Bleasby School, they did themselves, their parents, teachers and us as a community scheme proud.
“The effort levels from game one got better and better and better and was through the roof come the final, again I can’t emphasise enough that they’ve been an absolute credit with their effort, attitude and determination”
Bleasby School Head Teacher Sam Mensah said “I’m very proud of the school and the children, they played so well today and gave it absolutely everything – they’ve made myself, the school and their families very proud.
“The children really dug deep and showed great commitment to the shirt and Mansfield Town Football in the Community – they listened to the advice and instruction from the coaches and teachers, I’m so proud of them but gutted they couldn’t get their end reward of a trip to Wembley”
Ali Hobson, Bleasby’s PE Sports Lead, added “I couldn’t be prouder of them today they gave it absolutely everything, there work rate was phenomenal. Bleasby School have never entered a competition like the EFL Under 11s Kids Cup let alone get as far as they did.
“The kids confidence has rocketed – they genuinely came here today thinking they were going to Wembley and were determined to fight to achieve so, hence why they were distraught when they lost.
“I’d like to thank Mansfield Town FITC for inviting us to this year’s competition and all of their work and support throughout the day – the kids have enjoyed taking part and will have something to cherish forever.”
Reflecting on the entirety of this year’s competition, Gary Shaw added “It’s by far been our most popular year with over 30 of the areas primary schools entering our qualifying competitions.
“The standard has been immensely high and for Bleasby to come through the entirety of the competition unbeaten right up until the final match against Oldham, that’s a phenomenal achievement – in total they’ve played twenty games, with fifteen wins, four draws and one loss, well done everyone.”
Mansfield Town Football in the Community would like to thank all schools participating in our competition, Bolton Wanderers Community Trust for their hospital yesterday and congratulate Oldham on their victory.