LEAFIELD Athletic have had even more reason to celebrate, following the recent success of their under-16s team.
The under-16s side lifted the Open Cup after a 2-1 victory over Derby County, following up on the first team’s promotion to the FA Women’s National League at the start of the month.
An 8-3 defeat for the Leafield’s under-18s in their Open Cup final age equivalent, also against Derby, denied them the chance to follow in the footsteps of the under-16s later in the day, but they could hold their heads high after giving their all against a superior opponent.
Leafield’s under-16s side had battled to a hard-fought win against Sutton Coldfield Royals to reach the showpiece final, but knew they were in for a stern test against a Derby side who had won their league by nine points and lost just once all campaign.
The yellow and blacks had a game plan and stuck to it, throwing the Rams off their stride and keeping the game tight, whilst posing a threat from set-pieces themselves.
Both sides went in goal-less at the break, with Leafield’s half-time team talk very much emphasising the need to continue to stifle County’s threats, and to take the inevitable chance that would come their way.
Pettigrew was quick off her line to keep out two chances, which proved crucial as Leafield took the lead.
In the 63rd minute, a free kick 30 yards from goal was swung into the box by Ella Bridges, which went all the way through a crowd of bodies and into the net via the post, much to the Derby keeper’s bewilderment.
Athletic just needed to continue the good work that had earned them the opening goal, but a mis-placed pass across the penalty area gifted Derby a simple equaliser.
It left the game up for grabs going into the final ten minutes of the match, but Leafield struck back within three minutes of conceding to snatch the all-important winner.
An Olivia Milner throw was blocked, but only back into her path, allowing her to whip a cross into forward Taiya Fadare to control and fire into the back of the net, amid scenes of jubilation.
Billie Pearman-Wise was brought into the fray to shore up the defence, but although Derby threw numbers forward, they were unable to find a way back into the contest – handing Leafield the trophy.
Leafield’s under-18s were also going into their Open Cup final as the underdogs, with Derby very much an all-conquering side in the 2018/19 season – racking up a goal difference of 154 from their 20 games played.
Despite going two goals up through Alice Rogers and Amelia Kirk strikes, the scores were level after the half-hour mark, before Georgia Conway put Leafield back in front before the interval.
But with fatigue setting in, Derby made use of their aerial superiority to score two in quick succession and overturn the scores.
Leafield went close to pulling level, but with no substitutes to call upon compared to Derby’s options on the bench, they were able to rotate at regular intervals and added five further strikes to run out 8-3 winners.