The NPL Football Academy’s inter-league team played it’s third game on Monday 10th April against Port Vale at Kidsgrove Athletic FC.
Students representing Belper Town, Kidsgrove Athletic, Leek Town, Mickleover Sports, Radcliffe Borough, Warrington Town and Witton Albion were selected for the fixture which was managed on the night by Mickleover Sports Academy coaches John McGrath and Andy Dales.
Watched by a good crowd, the NPLFA students gave a fantastic account of their ability against professional opposition in an exciting game under floodlights.
The opening stages were all Port Vale as the NPLFA students took time to get used to each other. The first chance of the game though fell to Euan Woods on their first attack. Neat play by Stephen Stretton and Jake Dickinson saw Woods receive the ball in the box, his first touch was good but he was denied a shot with a smart tackle.
Not long after, Sam Gilbert pulled off a superb point blank save from Vale’s number 9 when it look destined to hit the back of the net.
Port Vale who were looking stronger of the two teams at this point were denied the lead when they struck a long sweet shot against the crossbar which had Gilbert beaten.
They eventually did take the lead in the 23rd minute. The impressive Ben White was outmuscled by Vale’s winger and he squared the ball back to Vale’s number 9, who slotted the ball past Gilbert into the bottom of the net.
To their credit, the NPLFA students heads did not drop and they were soon taking control of the game with neat passages of play and were soon back on level terms. A Gilbert goal kick was brought down by Woods who played in Stretton in the midfield, the Radcliffe Borough Academy captain played a ball round the corner with Dickinson, looking for the one-two, but the Mickleover forward turned and played a lovely ball in behind the defence for Adam Leach to run on to and he beautifully curled the ball around the Vale keeper.
The final chance of the first half came from Vale right on half time but they were denied re taking the lead from the assistant referee’s flag.
The visitors did take the lead not long after the break via the penalty spot. Morgan Williams who had a fantastic game, mis timed his tackle and though Sam Gilbert went the right way, he was beaten by the force of the spot kick.
Again the NPLFA continued to play good football and Jack Walsh played a delightful through ball to Leach, but the winger could not lift his shot over the Vale keeper.
Walsh who was neat and tidy all game, had an unfortunate moment two minutes later when he slipped on the ball after having the confidence to drop short and receive the ball from Gilbert but the Belper keeper made another great save to keep his side in the game.
Vale extended their lead with a brilliant free kick on 69 minutes that left Jaques Barker – who had replaced Gilbert in goal – stranded.
The NPLFA were back in the game once again on 74 minutes. The visitors failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to Tyreece Robinson and he found the bottom of the corner from 25 yards.
The final fifteen minutes saw the NPLFA students give everything to find an equaliser but the visitors finished the game stronger and secured the win.
The game and performance from the NPLFA showcased the talent we have in our programme against a fantastic professional youth academy and every single one of the students involved can feel proud of the effort and application they gave.
A special thanks to Kidsgrove Athletic FC for hosting the game and also to John McGrath and Andy Dales who took charge of team affairs on the evening.
TEAM: Sam Gilbert (Belper Town), Manzoor Amiri (Mickleover Sports), Morgan Williams (Mickleover Sports), Ben White (Warrington Town), Arron Woodward (Warrington Town), Adam Leach (Radcliffe Borough), Stephen Stretton (Radcliffe Borough), Jack Walsh (Mickleover Sports), Aron McGrath (Warrington), Jake Dickinson (Mickleover Sports), Euan Woods (Warrington Town)
SUBS: (All Used) Tyreece Robinson (Mickleover Sports), Jaques Barker (Mickleover Sports), Keeylin Thomas (Kidsgrove Athletic), Jake Daly (Radcliffe Borough), Owen Wynne (Witton Albion), Ryan Hanlon (Leek Town)