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Ultimate Football Coaching Academy triumph in the ECFA National Cup final
A day of drama and tension ended with UFCA securing their first ever ECFA National Cup, as they managed defeat South London based side Pro Direct Academy 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out.
The match began with chances being created at both ends of the pitch, however it was UFCA who were determined to grab the first goal. In the 11th minute, Nathan Firth was able to find striker Junayd Pandor with a tidy through ball cutting open the Pro Direct backline. One on one with the opposing goalkeeper, Pandor was able to maintain his cool and give UFCA the 1-0 lead.
UFCA were able to hold out a very competitive Pro Direct side for the remainder of the first half, with the clear-cut chances for UFCA coming from Taylor Foley as he narrowly missed the target, after landing his head on an Ewan Speck long throw.
Moving onto the second half, clear cut chances were hard to come by for both sides, but the intensity of the fixture never settled. Heavy challenges in the middle of the park were constantly breaking down the play for both teams, which made it very difficult for UFCA to push forward and secure that second goal.
Despite a very strong defensive performance from both centre halves Lewis Pinder, and Usaama Yate, Pro Direct were able to scavenge a 97th minute equaliser to take the Cup final to extra-time, even though they were major shouts from the UFCA coaches that the ball was handled in the lead up to the goal.
Pro Direct were able to capitalize on the momentum they built late in the second half and took it into the first half of extra-time, as two early goals saw them take a convincing 3-1 lead which surely should have sent them to National Cup gold.
Albeit Pro Direct’s comfortable lead, the UFCA lads showed an undeniable amount of endeavour to get back into the game. Late into the first half of extra-time, Pandor drew a foul in the opposition’s area in which the referee pointed to spot. In composed fashion, Pandor slotted the penalty into the bottom right corner, making the game 3-2.
With the momentum switched into UFCA’s favour, the boys in black and yellow were able to complete the comeback, as captain Foley was able to dink the Pro Direct keeper with a header, following a set-piece situation, taking the Cup final to a dreaded penalty shoot-out.
The first two penalties were calmly put away, with Bailey Smithies scoring the first for UFCA. The second penalty taker for Pro Direct subsequently narrowly missed the target, which allowed Yate to capitalise for UFCA, and give them a lead in the shootout. The third round of pens were again both slotted away, with Jordan Chippendale easily scoring his penalty. With the score line 3-2 in favour of UFCA, shot stopper Paddy Dooley stood tall in the centre of his goal and was able to save Pro Direct’s fourth penalty. This left UFCA’s captain Taylor Foley with the potential match-winning penalty, which he leathered emphatically into the bottom left corner, firing his team to National Cup glory.