Bexhill College's Football Academy won this season's first piece of silverware on Tuesday, winning the Chelsea Foundation College Cup final against a very strong Thomas Bennett team.
The final took place at Chelsea FC's first team training ground in Cobham and was the pinnacle of a very successful first half of a season for the Penland Road outfit. Having won all of their previous Foundation Cup games over the past few weeks, Bexhill went into the cup final in confident mood. Unfortunately, a long journey up to Cobham took its toll early in the game as Bexhill were slow to get going and had to withstand some sustained pressure from a very technical and well coached Bennett team. However, a dynamic break from international student, Martin Uzik, down the right hand side resulted in a corner which seemed to ignite the Bexhill College team into life. They began playing some very attractive football, passing the ball effortlessly through the Thomas Bennett midfield. With 25 minutes gone, Bexhill threaded the ball through the midfield again and split the Bennett defence allowing Sean Howard to strike a superb shot from just outside the penalty area into the top corner. Bexhill continued to dominate the first half and should really have capitalised on a Bennett mistake but Howard was unable to get his shot on target.
The second half started in a similar pattern to the first with Bexhill again being sluggish and allowing Thomas Bennett to build pressure on their defence. This time they were able to capitalise on it and with 50 minutes played, the Bennett striker ran clear of the Bexhill defence and slotted the ball home under the Bexhill keeper, James Early. The quick pace of the game started to have its effect on both teams as a number of substitutions were made, but the real turning point in the game came when the Bennett centre back was given a second yellow card for bringing down pacey wing forward on 70 minutes. The red card resulted in Thomas Bennett having to change their formation and lose one of their attacking players to cover for the defender, which allowed Bexhill to take on a more attacking formation and pile on the pressure for the remaining 20 minutes. Almost instantly Bexhill capitalised on the additional player as some dynamic two touch passing carved open the Bennett midfield and allowed substitute, Tomas Horvath, to pass the ball into the bottom corner of goal from 18 yards out. However, with just 8 minutes remaining of the game and Bexhill looking comfortable, they conceded a corner and following a well defended set piece where the ball was initially cleared; poor communication in the defensive line allowed the Bennett striker to stay onside and have a one on one with the Bexhill keeper. Earl was quick off his line and was able to initially make a good save, parrying the ball up into the air. However, the bounce and spin on the ball took it over the Bexhill goal line. With Bennett happy to now play for penalties and Bexhill pressing as high up the pitch as possible, it was the college side that looked the more likely to steal the win but a miscued shot wide from Josh Pool and a very good save from the Thomas Bennett goal keeper denying Matt Astle the game finished 2-2 after 90 minutes.
The cup final went straight to penalties with Thomas Bennet winning the toss and opting to take first. Some very good penalties were taken by both sets of players and, with each team missing one penalty each, the shootout went to sudden death. Every player in each squad took and scored their penalties including both goal keepers but with the scores tied at 13 all, the Bennett player stepped up to take his second penalty of the shootout but this time it was brilliantly saved by the keeper. Bexhill College captain, Ben Seal, had the responsibility of taking the following penalty and calmly placed the ball into the side netting of the goal sending the Bennett keeper the wrong way resulting in Bexhill College winning the cup final 14-13 on penalties.
Following the conclusion of the competition 3 Bexhill players have been scouted to represent the Chelsea FC Foundation Colleges Squad. Congratulations to Ben Seal, Dan Blackmore and Ryan Harffey and good luck.
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