Paignton Academy’s Torquay United Football Development Squad were triumphantly crowned South West College’s Football Champions after an emphatic 7-3 cup final victory against their visiting Bristolian counterparts, Merchants’ Academy. They are now in the last eight in England and Wales and are two games away from playing a May 1st final at the FA’s brand new £105m St. Georges Park football centre in Stafford.
The home side started brightly and drew a fine save from the Merchants’ goalkeeper inside five minutes, though during the opening stages, the visiting defence did not wilt under some heavy Paignton pressure. However a slick, quick counter attacking move was finished to fire Merchants’ into the lead.
The ruthlessness of Paignton’s response was matched by its efficiency. Five minutes from half time, first year Sam Fearon, instrumental throughout, had too much guile for his marker and turned smartly before his fierce near-post drive levelled affairs.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first – Paignton’s dynamic combinations meeting a resolute Merchants’ defence. Thankfully for the boys, Luke Boyle had other ideas. His neat finish to make it 2-1 was merely a prelude to a sensational four goal salvo which included a stunning 20 yard strike into the far corner.
Astute winger Tom Bellini shaped one of the game’s crucial flashpoints when after rounding the opposition goalkeeper was brutally felled with an open goal at his mercy. With the Merchants’ defender dismissed from the field of play, Bellini confidently placed the penalty past the despairing dive of the ‘keeper.
Another goal from Bellini’s simple finish delighted the home supporters though seemed a tad harsh on Merchants’ Academy who with the game at 4-2 threatened to mount an unbelievable comeback. Fortunately the home side held their nerve.
Nick Milton, coach of the Squad was overjoyed: “Despite the game ending 7-3, I couldn’t believe we’d actually won it until the ref blew for full time! It is a great day for the boys, Torquay United and Paignton Academy”.
As a result of becoming South West champions, Paignton have been drawn at home in a ‘National Quarter Final’ against the winners of the South East region later today – watch this space for the result. We all wish the squad the best of luck.