Night to remember for the U15s14 April 2016 may go down as a night to remember for Liverpool fans across the world but it will be well remembered too by the Whyteleafe Under 15 Youth team, coaches, parent and supporters who made the 90 mile round trip to Lordswood returning with the Kent Youth League’s Faversham Trophies Challenge Cup.
Darren Kenny’s side are sitting on top of the KYL U15s North table some seven points clear of nearest rival Erith & Belvedere having admittedly played two games more.
Their cup final opponents were Hollands & Blair play in the U15s South league and the two sides had not met before. Having already won the Kent County U15s cup and being based in Gillingham with their home Star Meadow ground just 3.4 miles north of Lordswood, it was not surprising then that their team was well supported on this night. The crowd was in excess of 200, with the bulk of the spectators having made the short journey.
But Whyteleafe were well represented behind the perimeter fence and the team they came to watch did not let them down.
It was clear from the very start that Leafe were up for this match and despite tricky conditions, the pitch was very bumpy, they took the game to Blair and put a great deal of pressure on their defence early in the match. Ada Okorogheye in particular was a menacing presence down the left with Robbie Daye looking sharp in the middle.
At the other end captain, Ben Hullett was shepherding the Whyteleafe defence well and put in a dominant performance particularly in the air as their opposition main tactic was firing long balls into Ellis Legg’s penalty area as the Leafe midfield tenaciously gave Blair’s playermakers no time on the ball.
The opening goal game in the 25th minute and Leafe were awarded a free kick wide on their right. Max Kenny stroked the ball into the danger zone, the Blair defence remained oddly static as several Leafe ran into the box. It was Hullett who was quickest to the ball and his deft header gave Blair keeper Stuart Smeed no chance.
Whyteleafe looked comfortable thereafter, controlling the pace of the match and keeping the Blair forwards at bay Blair tried to exert pressure by putting balls directly into danger areas.
As the match wore on Leafe withdrew somewhat and allowed Blair to come at them more as they came in pursuit of a much needed goal. However late in the game, Darren Kenny made a series of substitutions the last of which was to really pay dividends.
Whyteleafe made an increasingly rare foray into the Blair half, the ball moved swiftly from left to right with a sweet early touch from substitute Kwami Adu Poku to fellow sub Kieran Aubrey: both late introductions to the field of play. With the Blair defence seemingly asleep, Kieran’s his first touches of the game saw him control and then fire the ball past Smeed to make the game safe.
The goal sent the Whyteleafe supporters into raptures with just a few minutes left on the clock to wind down and the cup was won. Like a pair of David Faircloughs of the Liverpool of old, Kieran and Kwami were truly Whyteleafe’s “super subs” for the night.
The Cup was presented to team captain and goalscorer Ben Hullett who was also deservedly awarded Man of the Match a decision made by Gillingham FC defender Mitch Dickenson. A captain’s inning.