The Rovers U15’s team took the honours in a fiercely contested local derby against Tiverton based Twyford winning by 4-1 to book their place in the Taunton and District League Cup Final, writes Tony Badcott.
The final against Wembdon will be a great occasion for these U15’s in what is their first season together but with 12 straight league and cup wins they will fear nobody.
The Whites of Willand went into the game without the services of the cultured Chaz Dodds (cup tied), or the injured Josh Herbert (11 goals), Harry Taylor and Christian Whales (18 goals) who were a big loss. The 13 remaining players went into the game in a determined and focussed frame of mind eager to stamp their mark as the latest youth team to roll off the Silver Street youth football conveyor belt started by Steve Birley some five years or so ago.
As would be expected in a semi-final the first twenty minutes were a tense affair with little free flowing football whilst the players from both teams sized each other up. The game exploded into life on 23 minutes with the first real bit of quality when fleet footed Oscar Walsh raced down the right and delivered an inch perfect cross which was met by leading goal scorer Sam Ayres for his 37th goal of the season.
Twyford were being frustrated by the five man Rovers midfield who dominated possession notably through the work rate and fight shown by Captain Tom Jeacock, Aiden Harrison and Jacob Turner. This Rovers team is however blessed with a number of players who have searing pace and with Garreth Blackmore, Oscar Walsh and Kai Morgan all able to seemingly hit 0-60 in under five seconds Twyford were finding it more and more difficult to keep the game at a single goal. It was therefore inevitable that one of the Rovers speedsters would make Willand’s dominance pay and another trademark burst down the wing by Oscar Walsh ended with the ball in the back of the net to put Rovers 2-0 up on the 30 minute mark. Two became three a couple of minutes later when midfield king pin Jacob Turner pinged a 30 yard free kick directly over the 6ft 3 Twyford goalkeeper for an unassailable 3-0 lead. Credit however to the Tiverton based team who just before the half time whistle came back into the game to breach the Rovers defence of Goalkeeper Ben Gubb, Ryan Borkowski, Chris Badcott, Matt Futcher and Haydn Tucker.
Half time saw the introduction of Oli Billings in to the defence and he was instrumental in blocking and breaking up a number of forays into Rovers territory. With the game at 3-1 Willand Manager Tony Badcott reminded his team that the next goal was critical and that the second half required a steely determination to keep the opposition contained. However, any team with a player of the stand out quality of Oscar Walsh always has that something special when it’s needed. An Oscar Walsh run from one end of the pitch to the opposition penalty box saw the mesmeric Rovers winger pole axed for a stonewall penalty which Walsh himself dispatched for his 28th goal of the campaign. That was game over and the boys were able to celebrate reaching that first Cup final in a Willand shirt.
Man of the Match was Captain Tom Jeacock who covered every inch of the Silver Street turf.
Goals were shared out on the day between Walsh 2, Turner 1 and Ayres 1
The Willand Line up: Ben Gubb, Hayden Tucker, Ryan Borkowski, Chris Badcott, Matt Futcher, Tom Jeacock (Capt.), Jacob Turner, Oscar Walsh, Sam Ayers, Gareth Blackmore and Kai Morgan. Subs: Oli Billings and Aiden Harrison.