An early finish from school was required on Friday 17th November as Alsop’s 15 man squad prepared to play All Saints in the 4th round of the English Schools National Cup.

As they walked onto the pitch they carried the hopes, the dreams and the honour of Alsop High School. Though they stood alone, they stood tall and resolute like Spartan warriors at Thermopylae against the baying hordes of All Saints High School.

All Saints HS 2 – Alsop HS 5

Goals – Calland (4) Gillespie (1)

The match kicked off at a quick pace with Alsop compact and looking to focus attacks down the right hand side of the pitch to use Zach Gillespie’s pace and wing wizardry; the midfield trinity of Stopforth, Kelly and Holden were battling for control in the middle of the park and the irrepressible lone striker Aiden Calland was hunting down every ball, winning every header and terrorising the All Saints defence like a one man army. Early in the game he was hacked down outside the area and received a free kick. As the flamboyant striker sized up the angle he decided to go for goal and rattled the crossbar with a wicked shot that Trent Alexander-Arnold would have been proud of.

The first goal came from a clever quick throw in from Riley Hauley who spotted Calland’s run before the All Saints defence had time to react. Calland, dribbled superbly past two hapless defenders before smashing the ball into the bottom right of the goal to go one up. However, the lead didn’t last long with All Saints equalising almost immediately.

At 1-1 Commanding goalkeeper and vice-captain Joseph Manley launched a goal kick that caused anarchy in the All Saints defence, Zach Gillespie cleverly ghosted into the disarray and sprinted down the right hand side of the pitch hurdling over desperate tackles and bravely staying on his feet. The cultured winger, executed a perfect cross which Calland chested down and volleyed into the top corner.

Again, almost immediately, Alsop were pegged back by All Saints and then disaster struck. Box to box midfielder Tom Holden and strong left back Josh Ward had to be substituted through injury and were replaced by James Poland in midfield and Lucas Dean at left back as the referee blew his whistle for half time.

After a big team talk the match kicked off again with Alsop determined to put this match to bed and concede no more goals. The defence of Lyons, Piper, Dean and captain Josh Roberts were absolutely solid at the back refusing to give an inch, flying into tackles and bravely winning headers. However, it was the - all action display of explosive full back Lewis Dean, playing left back for the first time, that stood out. He was simply exceptional, defending with aplomb one minute and then marauding down the left to support his wingman Riley Hauley the next; All Saints could not get past him and Dean had his opponent in his pocket for the rest of the match.

With the match finely balanced, Gillespie and Calland once more teamed up to score Alsop’s third. In almost a carbon copy of the previous goal Gillespie, with incredible athleticism and skill, launched a cross from the right wing which Calland hit on the half volley to complete his hat trick.

It was at this point that Alsop smelt blood and stepped up 10 gears. It was clear that our boys wanted it more, every individual battle on the pitch was being won and All Saints were being worn down. Alsop’s forth goal was pure artistry. Midfield orchestrator Lois Stopforth, a colossus in the middle of the park all game, picked it up deep in his own half and went on an unbelievable run – Just like Lionel Messi, it was almost like the ball was glued to his foot such was the incredible display of skill as he danced and dribbled past 4 of the All Saints players, practically taking on half of the team single handedly! But skill is nothing without execution… He then threaded the most perfect defence splitting pass into the path of Zach Gillespie (who had uncharacteristically appeared on the left wing). As Gillespie sprinted clean through the goalkeeper rushed out. Gillespie with the outside of his right boot dinked it over the helpless goalkeeper who watched it sail into the back of the net – an unbelievable chip, an unbelievable finish from an unbelievable move!

With Alsop comfortably two goals ahead they looked to change their game management and run the clock down. Unfortunately, vice-captain and goalkeeper Joe Manley, who had marshalled his defence superbly all game and had been a solid pair of hands, received the only yellow card of the match and a telling off from the referee for time wasting… but there was one more goal to come.

In the dying minutes of the game Alsop went forward again with Aiden Calland through on goal. As he moved into the area a tall All Saints defender cynically fouled him and the ref blew his whistle for a penalty. As Calland sized up the goal, he took a run up and cooly placed it into the right-hand side of the goal taking his tally to six goals in two matches and the player of the match award.

The ref then blew the final whistle and Alsop celebrated a well-deserved victory. Every one of these boys magnificent. Every one of these boys representing our community and making us all proud. Every one of these boys heroes.

An Awesome way to finish a school week and an even better way to start a weekend!

5th Round will be West Derby away TBC