Sunday, 30th April, 2023 will go down in West Kent Schools Football Association (WKSFA) history as the day their Under 13 girls put the heartache of losing the final last year to one side, to beat defending Champions Liverpool District in a thrilling game at Stoke City’s Bet 365 stadium, to become the National under-13 Champions of England.
Liverpool were deservedly in the lead at half time with a well taken goal, but some good saves from the WKSFA keeper helped make sure they only went in one down at the break. Some inspired words, slight tactical tweaks and a complete ‘no panic’ approach
saw the girls come out in the second half and play the football they are capable of.
A well contested second half where both sides had some good chances then swung on a West Kent corner with seven minutes remaining. A beautifully delivered set piece corner from the right was met on the volley perfectly and nestled in the back of the Liverpool net to the delight of the WKSFA players, coaches and many travelling fans (as well as those at home – as the game was streamed live).
Liverpool appeared shell shocked that West Kent had got back into the game and the WKSFA team spirit was shining through in the last five minutes, as both sides pushed for the winner to avoid a penalty shoot out. However, one important final save from the WKSFA keeper took them to penalties.
West Kent were very calm in selecting their players and the vibe was very positive. Winning the toss, the WKSFA captain elected to have the first penalty and it was dispatched with clinical calmness. There was pressure straight away on Liverpool and the WKSFA keeper and skipper made a very good save to her left to give West Kent the advantage. What followed was three scored penalties each, which meant if WKSFA could score their fifth penalty they would be crowned national champions for the first time in their history.
Their goal scorer in the game took the ball, kissed it and as she placed it down, the team were getting ready to sprint over to celebrate – it was never in doubt! With real class, the ball was smashed in and pandemonium erupted on the pitch, in the stands and at home.
In the moment of sheer jubilation, the first thing West Kent did was to pick the Liverpool keeper up off the turf, showing respect and dignity in victory.
What followed was a pure fairy tale as WKSFA picked up the cup, the player of the match award for the keeper and lots of tears of happiness, videos of togetherness, team spirit and a never giving up attitude.
The coach journey home was loud and fun and rolled into Tonbridge at 12.30am. Everyone who had been a part of the day will have memories that will last forever.