A pulsating Cup Final saw Coventry Girls U16 crowned Girls County Cup champions following a 3-0 victory over Stourbridge FC U16.
In blustery conditions, it was Stourbridge who started the brighter. With the wind behind them, they took the attack to Coventry and saw a first-minute effort from Jasmine Whitmore tipped wide by Jade Taylor. The resulting corner fell to Whitmore once again, but Taylor was equal to the effort by diving brilliantly to her right to keep the scores level.
Apart from a couple of long-range efforts from Stourbridge’s Lauren Caddick, the well-organised defence of Coventry, marshalled by the impressive Molly Pentone, were restricting their opponents to very few chances in the early exchanges.
On eight minutes, Ana Oliveira showed a couple of nice touches to almost set Macy Tranter through, yet the Stourbridge defence held firm.
A few minutes later, Taylor was again called into action once again by saving a near-post effort from Lauren Furnival.
The deadlock was broken 20 minutes in. Slightly against the run of play, it was Coventry who took the lead with Tegan Suree getting herself on the scoresheet. Tranter showed wonderful feet on the left wing to beat two defenders, before whipping in a deep cross which Suree calmly finished.
In response Caddick’s fierce effort from outside the box flew just over the bar.
Kacie Morby then did well to snuff out a Stourbridge attack, only for her clearance to fall to Furnival whose effort failed to test the goalkeeper.
It was evident that Leigh Kingsbeer had worked on Coventry’s backline to ensure they were well organised for this contest, with the defensive pairing of Pentone and Hannah Davis continuing to keep Stourbridge’s chances to a minimum. From a neutral perspective, it was great to see the duo take great pride in defending their goal.
Just after the 30 minute mark Tiani Forsyth flicked a clever effort towards goal, only to see Elizabeth Giles, having just come off the bench, clear it off the line.
In the dying moments of the first half, Coventry were given a golden opportunity to increase their lead when Oliveira was played through on goal by Marta Pereira Andrade. Unfortunately she did not connect well, meaning they had to settle for a 1-0 lead at half time.
Early on in the second half, we were nearly on level terms when a fantastic cross from Furnival set up Whitmore, however her effort drifted just wide of Taylor’s goal.
Stourbridge midfielder Abby White showed some good footwork to twice beat her marker before digging out a cross, yet Pentone was there once again to clear the danger.
On 56 minutes an eye-of-a-needle pass from Bailey O’Toole set the pacey Oliveira through on goal, where Leonie Blackford made the save.
Two minutes later, it was Oliveira’s speed down the right wing that created another chance for Coventry. Her teasing ball across goal found Tranter where, despite her initial effort being saved by Blackford, she slotted the ball into the corner to give her side a two-goal cushion.
Tranter’s goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the reds, resulting in Blackford being called upon again to make a save.
On 68 minutes, it was all but over. Oliveira again showed great pace down the right and, despite having no support in the box, managed to squeeze the ball into the net. After her initial effort was saved, she slotted home the rebound to make it 3-0.
The game did peter out to a certain extent, but it was a thrilling encounter nonetheless. There was an almighty last-minute scramble though, with Coventry desperate not to concede. After a slight fumble from Taylor, she eventually dived on the ball and clung to it gratefully with just seconds left on the clock.
Coventry manager Leigh Kingsbeer was full of praise for his side after the game, and was particularly pleased to see his side keep a clean sheet.
“It comes down to the back four and the goalkeeper. As a defensive unit they have been outstanding all season.
“I am very pleased to keep a clean sheet because that is just as good as scoring goals in my eyes.”
He then reflected on how much it meant to him to win the County Cup.
“It is massive. It is the biggest Cup for this age group, and it is the only one I had not won.
“I put a lot of pressure on the girls today by saying this is the one I want, so I can go and retire happy now.”