On Tuesday evening, Wood’s youngsters secured the England College’s FA National Cup Title following a resounding 5-0 victory over AFC Sudbury at Walsall FC’s Bank’s Stadium.
Wood started the final in boisterous fashion, exploding out of the gates as they really took the game to AFC Sudbury in the opening 20 minutes. A number of chances were squandered, whilst Sudbury’s goalkeeper was also called into action with last gasp saves to shut out the Wood attack and keep the tie at 0-0.
After fending off the early onslaught from the Wood youngsters, AFC Sudbury started to take a foothold in the game themselves with the balance of play shifting into their favour as the half progressed. After a number of half chances for Sudbury, they wasted a golden opportunity to take the lead as their wide man, who was through on goal, hesitated to pull the trigger allowing the Wood back line to recover, before slicing his shot wide of the mark. This was a chance Sudbury would go onto to rue as the game developed.
Just 5 minutes later, admittedly against the run of play, a smart interchange in the middle of the park set Wood striker Callum Stead through on goal, who calmly picked his spot and stroked his shot into the bottom right hand corner of the Sudbury goal to give Wood a one-goal advantage heading into the interval.
Following the half time break, the game resumed but at a much less fanatic pace compared to the first half. After a couple of half chances for both sides, in the 60th minute, Wood and striker Callum Stead both doubled their goals tallies for the evening. Another great interchange from the Wood engine room culminated in a fine pass from playmaker Hamza Semakula setting Stead through on goal once again. With a defender still to beat, Stead dropped his shoulder to give himself half a yard of space, before unleashing a ferocious shot past the Sudbury keeper.
Just ten minutes later, man of the match Stead completed his hat trick and seemingly put the tie to bed for the young Wood side. This time, a long ball down the left-hand flank from full back Kai Wint again put Stead through on goal. Stead’s pace meant that he was not going to be caught by the Sudbury back line, and he coolly tapped the ball in under the keeper at the front post.
As Wood looked to see the game out professionally, they added another two goals to secure the 5-0 victory. The fourth coming from a powerful header from wide man Cheyce Grant following a superb delivery from Shaquille Ishmael from the left by line. The fifth saw a great individual effort from Stevenson, who picked up the ball just inside the Sudbury half before going on a mazy run, beating three defenders and slotting his effort into the bottom corner.
Academy Head Coach Cameron Mawer commented “We needed no motivation on two fronts tonight. To win a National Cup is a huge accolade, but to have the added motivation of going to a place where we were eight minutes from becoming treble national champions two years ago and losing gave us added motivation.
“We lost 4 players along the way this season, so for the boys to continue on the path they have is fantastic. We worked hard on the game plan over the last week and the way the boys implemented it was excellent. Fair play to AFC Sudbury, they gave us a very good examination for long periods of the first half, but the character we showed today was on another level, it didn`t surprise me but I am very proud of them all.
“To win any cup final 5-0 is fantastic, I have a lot of big game players in the team and that showed. Nine of the 16 will now move on from under 19’s football and they leave a lasting legacy. My job is now to turn my attention to the other seven who will be with us again next season. They have alot to live up to but I know what we have within the academy coming through and its going to be another exciting challenge next season.”
For some Wood youngsters this was their final youth team game of their careers, bowing out in magnificent fashion. Special mentions must go to Fred Burbidge, Alex Morgan, Alex Radu and Daniel Creese who have been with the Club since Under 16’s and have won ten titles all-in-all during their four years with the Club. So to these boys, as well as the entire Under 19 group as a whole, the entire Club, including its staff and supporters, offer you huge congratulations, you done us all proud! Well done, boys!