Upton Juniors in Broadstairs is celebrating being the first Thanet school for 17 years to win the prestigious Kent Football Finals.
At Sporting Club Thamesmead at the weekend Upton flew the flag for Thanet after winning the district’s John Curran Cup in October.
Upton took on the best that Kent has to offer in primary football – and emerged as the county’s champs after a high tension nail-biting sudden death penalty shoot-out in the final.
And still Upton’s journey is not over – in the New Year the players will now represent Kent in the South East England Finals in March, again at Thamesmead.
Drawn in a tough group against teams from Bexley, Orpington, Dartford and Gravesham, Upton made a strong start to the tournament. In the team’s first match against Hextable School, Upton created many chances but were unable to find the net, drawing 0-0. The second game against Hartley saw Upton score immediately through Jack S. Unfortunately, an injury soon after ended Jack’s participation in the tournament but Upton scored again through captain Bailey soon after. Superb goal-keeping from Tom F kept Hartley at bay and Upton took the three points.
Up next were Crofton school and again Upton took the lead. Superb midfield work from Max S, Joe W and Sidney D pushed Crofton back consistently and they could have scored many more. However, injuries were beginning to take their toll. The excellent defensive unit of Bailey H and Oscar W was disrupted through injury and Crofton equalised to earn the draw. Despite being stretched with injuries, Upton led in their final group match against Bexley champions, Dulverton, but again were forced to make constant changes through injury. Dulverton equalised but the very close contests from all teams meant Upton progressed unbeaten into the semi-finals against Paddock Wood.
The semi-final was one way traffic as Upton hit the bar and post and forced the Paddock Wood keeper into numerous saves. However the elusive goals wouldn’t come and the game moved into extra-time and then penalties. Upton scored their penalties and keeper Tom F saved three of the first four opposition penalties to take Upton into the final.
The final saw them pitted against Hartley once more – this was a much tighter affair, with the pressure clearly beginning to tell. Both sides had their keepers to thank when the score after extra-time was goalless.
Penalties would decide the trophy. The shoot-out could not have started more poorly for Upton, who missed their first three penalties. Hartley scored their first two spot-kicks and then had two chances to win the contest.
With Upton clinging on, more drama unfolded as keeper Tom F saved both penalties and then took the spot kick that tied the scores.
Hartley were rattled and blasted their first sudden death kick over the bar, while Bailey S calmly stroked the ball home for Upton to take the trophy.
Deputy Head Dave Walker runs the football team with sports coaches Mr Noble and Mr MacLaurin. He said: “Myself, the coaches, the whole school, and I’m sure the Thanet teams we represented are just so proud of this side. They never knew when they were beaten and kept on and on until the end showing so much resilience and determination.
“We had to travel the farther for the tournament and we suffered with injuries during the competition. It was a superb sporting occasion and the Upton success was brilliant in terms of the way in which we played and how the boys and our parents conducted themselves.
“The last set of Thanet boys to win this event will be almost 30 years old by now – I hope we won’t have to wait so long to see this success again.”