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Rushall Olympic (Amber) were crowned as champions of the South Division in recent weeks and what lies ahead for them is a mammoth clash against the North Division champions Runcorn Linnets. With the cup competition in full swing as well, the past few months have been jam-packed full of drama and excitement on the football pitch.

In the South Division, we saw Kidlington and Rushall Olympic (Amber) battling it out all season for the title. The two sides were neck and neck for most of the campaign, with Rushall Olympic (Amber) being handed the title in #MatchweekTwentyTwo when Kidlington were halted by Frome Town in a 1-1 draw. Rushall Olympic (Amber) finished the season with 29 points from their 12 games, winning nine, drawing two and losing just one game all season. They also possessed an excellent goal difference of +37, scoring 50 and conceding 13. Tyrese Hall, an #ESPFAWestMidlands student representing Rushall Olympic (Amber)’s as their main striker has put his sides excellent season down to the bond his teammates have on the pitch. He said: “I believe we were so successful because our team jelled well together and became more than teammates, therefore when we were on the pitch you would never feel alone. It feels great [to have won the division], it was a battle towards the end, but we fought through it and came out on top, and I also believe we fully deserved it. What really gave us the edge was that we all played to our strengths”.

Whilst the South Division still has a handful of fixtures left to play, the North Division standings are set with all fixtures having been complete. Runcorn Linnets came out on top, winning the North Division but what is most impressive about this feat is their perfect divisional campaign. The #ESPFACheshire team won their last North Division game in #MatchweekTwentyThree against Brighouse Town to cap off an incredible season where they won all 12 of their divisional fixtures. #ESPFACheshire student representing Runcorn Linnets Jamie Whittaker was proud of his team for the emphatic way they won the North Division. He said: “It’s always a great feeling to win the division, but to do it in the way we have with a perfect record is amazing. However, it is very easy to lose concentration as shown in some of our recent games as we have only broken the deadlock after longer periods of time.”

With both the North and South division winners decided, the two teams will now meet in the ESPFA National Championship. This is a very exciting prospect to see two brilliant teams go head-to-head for a chance at national glory. Mark Baker, the head of programme for the ESPFA believes this fixture should be a very entertaining game: “The final between the winners of both divisions should be a very interesting watch. Both sides will come into the fixture with the belief they can better each other and that should make for an entertaining and open game. Runcorn having lost last year's final, should be highly motivated to go one better, whilst Rushall will see the fixture as crowning two years’ worth of progression.” Baker also said that this Runcorn Linnets side could be one of the best teams that has come out of the ESPFA: “Runcorn Linnets season has been absolutely fantastic, and they are without question, they are up there with the strongest sides the ESPFA have produced. Runcorn have played excellent football through midfield, whilst displaying a ruthless streak throughout the team, with the ability to hurt you from all areas.” Aside from that, Baker thinks that the fact that Rushall Olympic (Amber) had to show mental strength and toughness to fight off a challenger in their division could benefit them in the National Championships: “The Southern region saw a much closer title race take place with Rushall managing to get over the line, amongst stiff competition in the form of Kidlington. The extra competitive edge that the team have had to have week in week out may stand them in good stead against Runcorn, with the side having had to display the grit/determination they may need to showcase once again if the fixture remains in the balance into the later stages.” Regardless of the outcome, both sides have had excellent divisional season’s and are worthy winners of their division which will set up an enthralling clash in the National Championships.

With the North Division wrapped up and only one game left to play in the South Division, the ESPFA Cup competition has been taking precedent of late and we are right into the business end of the competition now. The ESPFA Cup has given North Division teams seven extra games and South Division teams five extra games before the quarter final stage. The way it works is the teams are split into North and South groups. These are the same as the regional divisions except Carlton have been moved up to the North group. Each team plays one another once and the top four teams then proceed to the quarter finals. One team that has enjoyed their cup run has been Witton Albion in the North group. The #ESPFACheshire side didn’t have the season they had hoped for in the division but have been reinvigorated in the cup competition, sitting at the top of the North group on 13 points from six games and have already qualified for the latter stages with a game left to play. #ESPFACheshire student Isaac Shaw representing Witton Albion has said his side were looking forward to the cup competition as it gave them a shot at redemption following the North Division season. He said: “As a team we’ve enjoyed the cup a lot. It gave us more games to gel together and finally we have clicked and are playing some really good football. We have a point to prove, we knew how good we were and what we were capable of just needed to fix a few things and show to people how dangerous we are. We are excited to get into the knockout stages and fingers crossed they go well. Our aim was to get top four after the poor league position in the table.

With the end of the 2021/22 season approaching, there is still so much to look forward to in the final months of both the academic year and the football season, with silverware galore up for grabs. We can’t wait to see how the seasons turns out and we want to thank all of the students, tutors and coaches for all their hard work so far this year.

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