Islington team chase glory in national schools’ final at Reading
PUBLISHED: 09:00 17 May 2016 | UPDATED: 09:00 17 May 2016
St Aloysius RC College Under-14s manager Stewart Henderson is hoping his team’s good fortune holds when they contest a national final at Reading’s Madejski Stadium.
The Under-14s, who won the national schools’ five-a-side tournament in Derby earlier this season, are aiming to complete a double by claiming the PlayStation Schools’ Cup.
They face Westfield School from Sheffield in Wednesday’s final, kick-off 11.30am – and Henderson feels his team’s run to the final has already yielded indications that luck is on their side.
He told the Gazette: “Last year we got to the quarter-finals and the other side’s teacher said to me afterwards that he thought we’d be strong again next time.
“We’ve kept the core of the side together but we’ve had a big squad and, when we’ve been missing players, the boys who came in have done really well.
“In the last 32 we played Hampton School and went 2-0 down after 10 minutes, but we got it back to 3-3, went to extra time and Denzelle Olopade scored from 35 yards to win it.
“When things like that happened, it gave the boys belief they could go further. In the semi-finals against Little Heath, we gave away a penalty at 0-0 with 10 minutes to go but our goalkeeper, Arthur Okonkwo, saved it.
“That demoralised them – because of the save, they didn’t want it to go to penalties, they made mistakes and we went on to win 2-0 in extra time. So sometimes you feel you’ve got the rub of the green.”
The Hornsey Lane school – whose Under-16 team won the tournament in 2000 – saw off Islington rivals Holloway and then St Mary Magdalene Academy in the first two rounds before triumphing in a penalty shoot-out against Edenham High.
They beat Redborne 3-1 before the extra-time success against Hampton and then a 2-1 win over Shenley Brook End took them into the last eight.
St Aloysius then edged out Stevenage side John Henry 2-1 and won the semi-final against Little Heath to set up next week’s trip to the Madejski Stadium.
The team will be cheered on by three coachloads of supporters making the journey from north London and Henderson added: “It’s going to be great for the boys to play in front of a crowd.
“With that said, I don’t want them in awe of where they are and getting caught up in the occasion. The key thing for us to do is to stay focused and keep our shape, which is quite difficult on a big pitch.
“I want them to enjoy the day and get the most out of it, but I also want to drill into them that they’ve got to be organised and disciplined.
“We realise how important this is for the school – our aim is to be one of the top sports schools in the country. It’s already a massive achievement to reach the final but it’d be even better to win it.”
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