On Friday, March 13, Gillingham FC Community Trust attended the Kinder +Sport EFL U11s Kids Cup Regional Final, hosted by MK Dons Sports and Education Trust.
Representing the Gills at the five-a-side tournament was the fantastic team from Offham Primary School in West Malling, who won our local finals in November
in a real ‘magic of the cup’ moment.
The Regional Final consisted of teams representing 12 League One clubs from across the South. The Gills were up against tough competition, with teams from Swindon, Charlton, Coventry, AFC Wimbledon and Millwall making up their group.
First up for the Gills was the team representing Swindon Town FC. The Gills started the game with confidence, and an early free kick was perfectly hit into the back of the net to make it 1-0! Buoyed by their goal, the Gills were straight back down the pitch, and a second shot was chipped over the keeper making it 2-0! Cheered on from the side-lines, another shot then flew into the net, making it 3-0 at half-time, with a great hat-trick to start the tournament.
The Gills continued their strong play in the second half, defending well as Swindon tried to get back into the game. Swindon took the score to 3-1, but the team were undeterred, and instantly responded with another goal! The game ended 4-1 to the Gills; a fantastic start to the tournament!
Game two for the Gills was against the team representing Charlton Athletic FC. Encouraged by their win, the Gills had a lively start to the game, forcing several good saves from Charlton’s keeper. Charlton had a strong team though, and a goal in the second half meant the game finished 0-1 to Charlton.
The Gills were then straight back up to play the team representing Millwall FC. The game was fast-paced, with Millwall on the attack, and two lucky goals in quick succession made in 0-2 to Millwall. The Gills responded well, keeping their head up and looking to get back into the game. Showing their consistency with set-pieces, another powerful Gills free kick flew over the Millwall players and into the back of the net – 1-2! The Gills’ confidence was growing, with the team putting pressure on the Millwall defence, and hitting the target to make it 2-2 on the half-time whistle.
The Gills started well in the second half, keeping the Millwall goalkeeper busy, but Millwall responded with two more quick goals. The Gills fought back, with a stunning shot from the half-way line only just being caught by the Millwall keeper. Despite their best efforts, the game ended 2-4; an unlucky result for the Gills who had played well throughout.
After a break, and a chance to regroup, the Gills were up against AFC Wimbledon’s team. The game had an energetic start, with two early AFC Wimbledon goals. The Gills determinedly fought back, hitting the target to make it 1-2 at half-time. In the second half, the Gills broke through the Don’s defence again, with a great shot making it 2-2 – game on! Both teams fought hard to score a winner, but at the final whistle the game ended in a draw.
The Gills’ final game was against the team from Coventry City FC. There was still all to play for, with results across the group meaning the two spaces in the semi-final were anyone’s to win.
Coming off the back of their hard-fought draw, the Gills were looking to end the tournament on a high. Early on in the game, a Coventry foul won the Gills a free kick, and it was another superb set-piece as the ball went straight into the net – 1-0 Gills! After Coventry got one back early on in the second half, both teams were pushing for a final win, but it was the Gills dominating the play, with a headed ball narrowing missing the target. As the final whistle blew, the score remained 1-1, and the Gills ended the tournament with a well-deserved point.
Results on the other pitches meant that Offham’s team just missed out on a semi-final place, but they had done the Gills proud in the tournament, showing fantastic skill and teamwork, and scoring plenty of excellent goals against tough opposition. All of the players agreed that they had really enjoyed the experience.
“It’s been really exciting,” said parent Michael Hatch, who came to support on the day. “There was stiff competition here, but the team has done fantastically well."
“We’re so proud of the boys,” added teacher Mark Durrant, who coached the team. “We’re from a small school and we were up against some footballing giants, so the team has done really well for Gillingham – they should be really proud of themselves!”
Community Trust Participation Development Officer Jack Knighton agreed; “The team from Offham Primary School showed great spirit throughout the tournament. It was the first time they’ve been involved with Gillingham FC, and they certainly did the club and their school proud! We look forward to seeing them involved again soon!”
Thank you to MK Dons for hosting a great Kids Cup Regional Final, and well done to the overall winners from Oxford United who progress in the tournament.
A big thank you and well done especially to the players, staff and parents from Offham Primary School – you did the Gills proud!