Road to the finals
The Crystal Palace regional qualifiers this year saw 44 primary schools enter the under 11s mixed tournament and 22 secondary schools enter the under 13s girls tournament. These teams were spread out over our four local boroughs and after some exciting and nerve-racking qualifiers (including several penalty shootouts, one of which ended 16-17) we were left with just one team from each of the boroughs. Those teams were:
Bromley: Hayes Primary (under 11s) and Charles Darwin School (under 13s)
Croydon: St James the Great (under 11s) and Edenham High School (under 13s)
Sutton: Barrow Hedges Primary (under 11s) and Greenshaw High School (under 13s)
Tandridge: Furzefield Primary School (under 11s) and Stanley Park High (under 13s)
The under 11s tournament was only contested by three teams on the day as Furzefield had to pull out, however these three teams still played out a very entertaining qualifier. Going into the lunch break it was finely balanced with both Hayes primary and Barrow Hedges level on points. However, after a comprehensive 5-0 win by Hayes over Barrow Hedges, they never looked back, finishing the day not only unbeaten but without conceding a single goal.
The under 13s tournament was also an incredibly closely fought tournament going into the second round of matches. However, a win over second place Stanley Park took Greenshaw 3 points clear leaving them not only the winners and progressing onto the national finals but also as top goal scorers, with only one loss in the whole tournament.
Goodison Park Finals
After winning the CPFC finals both Hayes Primary and Greenshaw qualified to represent Crystal Palace in the PLST Finals against schools from every other Premier League club. This in itself was a fantastic achievement as over 1,700 schools had entered with nearly 14,000 young people taking part.
Greenshaw, who were representing Crystal Palace for a second time at this stage, were unlucky to be drawn in a group with eventual winners Sunderland, who in the first game showed their quality to take a 2-0 lead before a spirted fightback saw the game end 2-1 with the post denying Greenshaw a late equaliser. Fightbacks were the theme of the day for Greenshaw after coming from behind to draw 1-1 with Manchester United in a very close game and from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Watford in a game they fully deserved to win. In their final group match they played some of their best football producing several brilliant passing moves to again draw 1-1 with a very strong West Ham side. All in all the girls represented the club to an incredibly high standard and were unlucky to get drawn in the toughest group in a tournament were only one team qualified.
Hayes Primary, representing Crystal Palace for the first time at this stage, were looking to continue on from an impressive season which saw them finish unbeaten and as both Bromley league and cup winners. Their first game saw them twice come from behind to draw 2-2 with Sunderland in a very entertaining and slightly nervous game, before Hayes much like as in the CPFC finals really started to gel as a team. After beating Manchester United in a hard-fought game, they knew only a win against Watford would keep them in with a chance of qualifying. The game itself was incredibly close but Hayes showed a great defensive display to keep out a free scoring Watford team and win the game 1-0, meaning qualification to the semi-finals would be achieved with a win over West Ham. Hayes took an early lead in this game and, after several key saves from goalkeeper Reggie Arnold, managed to grab the win they needed to progress into the semi-finals.
Here they met a strong Tottenham side but never looked like losing, winning 2-0 with some wonderful attacking football and an outstanding solo goal by James Rushton. This set up a final against a strong Swansea side that unfortunately produced a sensational long range goal to win the game 1-0, despite Hayes giving everything they had to try and find that elusive equaliser. However, finishing second was an unbelievable performance which included conceding just 3 goals during the finals and their first loss of the entire season.
Overall both teams represented Crystal Palace to the highest of standards both on and off the pitch and thoroughly enjoyed the tournament, giving whoever represents us next year a high billing to live up to.