Sparsholt College crowned U18 national champions on dramatic day

Sparsholt College 3 John Rigby College 2.

ESFA U18 Colleges Trophy Final.

Goals from Oli Bailey, Ed Chappe and Davis Jerrard secured a memorable ESFA U18 Colleges Trophy final victory for Sparsholt College confirming what many already know that the future of football in the Andover area is in very good hands.

Played in the impressive Ricoh Arena, estranged home of Coventry City FC, it was a stunning success over Wigan based John Rigby College, despite having been on the back foot for the opening 30 minutes and going behind to an early goal from Ben Rodgers. Neil Benson’s side took a while to settle and adjust to the setting and the Wigan side looked impressive for a while but failed to press home their advantage and paid the ultimate price as Sparsholt hit them with a double strike before the break and went on to give a passing game masterclass which few sides at that level would live with. Having lost Scott Munro following a crude lunge Benson was soon made to reshuffle but Jerrard and Tommy Wright linked up for Michael Donovan to go close then seconds later Chappe hit the side netting as Sparsholt worked their way back into the game and the Wiganners wobbled.

With seven minutes left to the break Bailey’s close skills created enough room to squeeze a drive past keeper Tom Hull and Sparsholt were level and just on the whistle Chappe’s 25 yarder took a deflection past the wrong footed Hull and they enjoyed half-time with a deserved lead.

Predictably John Rigby went at Sparsholt from the restart but created little and once Sparsholt went into passing overdrive there was only one outcome. An irresistible flowing 15 man move ended with Wright’s drive being parried to the feet of the lurking Jerrard and he made no mistake from a yard out. Just past then hour some sloppy defending presented John Rigby’s best player Ben Bolton with a simple chance which ended up in the net but again they failed to press home their brief spell of dominance and the Bensons skilfully used the rolling subs rule to manage the game.

Josh Helm went full stretch to keep out a 30 yard effort from Jack Hurst and soon after the Trophy was theirs, just two years after losing in the same final just down the road at Nuneaton Town.

Squad: Josh Helm, Callum Cuniffe-Pilley, Will Bateman, Scott Munro, Jack Shiner, Tom Pattison, Tommy Wright, Charlie Gunson, Oli Bailey, Ed Chappe, David Jerrard, Hilary Ndagurwa, Mark Childs, Michael Donovan, Keiron Stephens, Macauley Stubbs, Owen Trapnell, Erli Cupi, Robaggio Thomas.

Squad members Sam Burt and Josh Bertie were injured.

With 75 percent of this squad still first years the prospects are good and with several already having made their debuts for Andover Town’s senior side the Portway faithful have much to look forward to.

The side now have the County Colleges final on Wednesday at Test Park against as they look to clinch a remarkable double.

Pictures and reaction the game here later and in Friday's Advertiser

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