17-year-old Junior Soldier Brett Marshall scored all four goals as Harrogate eventually beat the “Gunners” 4-3 after extra time.
It was the first time the Army Youth Football Cup had been contested since 2004 and the travelling opposition were determined to push the hosts all the way in the revived competition.
Marshall, who was top scorer for the tournament and named man of the match, admitted:
“It was hard, but we kept our heads up and played together really well as a team”.
Harrogate’s teenage soldiers had reached the final after a series of play-off matches on Saturday against Under 18 sides from the Royal School of Artillery in Larkhill and The Infantry Training Centre at Catterick. The team representing the Army Foundation College had played together just twice previously having only arrived in Harrogate in January.
The first half of the final was a scrappy affair as both teams started with determination and chances soon appeared at either end.
The home side were first to capitalise and took the lead after only seven minutes, despite protests that the Harrogate player may have been offside.
Harrogate continued to push the visitors with a number of direct attempts on goal, but after 32 minutes it was Larkhill who eventually equalised from a corner. Harrogate responded immediately to restore the lead.
With the game evenly poised and about quarter of an hour remaining you could sense the cautious approach – and tired legs – of both sides with so much at stake.
The match should have been settled in the final minute of normal time when Harrogate were denied a winning goal by the referee after the ball apparently crossed the line.
With long shadows beginning to stretch across the pitch, the referee added an extra twenty minutes. Larkhill were first to score seven minutes into added time and the contest came alive once again. A couple of minutes into the second half, Marshall levelled matters from the spot after a handball in the visitor’s area.
At 3-3 the match looked to be going to penalties when, in the last minute of added time, Marshall beat the keeper to slot his fourth goal into the net. A few seconds later the referee’s final whistle signalled jubilant scenes for the home side and ensured that the silverware stayed in Yorkshire.
Earlier Harrogate’s female footballers had also defeated Larkhill by three goals to one in the final of the Female 6s competition.
Team captain of the Female 6s side, Junior Soldier Abi Hardey:
“We’ve all done so well today and I’m very pleased for Harrogate. We beat them 3-1 despite never really playing before. Hopefully we can now build on this success and get the team up and running.”
“I’ve been in Harrogate for two years and it’s been an aspiration to revive this competition.
“There’s a good standard of football at Under 18s in the Army. I mentor football for the Junior Soldiers at Harrogate, both male and female, and there’s a nucleus of young talent that come through the gates. We often go out and play civilian clubs in the local community.
The youngest soldiers in the British Army come to Harrogate from across the UK and are destined to join the infantry, Royal Artillery, Royal Armoured Corps and Royal Logistic Corps. The sixteen and seventeen-year-olds complete a 42-week programme of military, leadership, educational and vocational training at the College before undertaking their specialist ‘Phase 2’ training elsewhere in the UK and eventually joining their regiments.
- For more images from the Army Youth Cup Final visit: www.timothycook.co.uk
- For further updates from the Army Foundation College visit http://twitter.com/AFCHarrogate
- See previous news item: “Independent report praises training at Army Foundation College” (16 February 2011)