Priory Belvoir Academy’s hopes of reaching a prestigious national football cup final were dashed in cruel fashion on Wednesday.
The Year 11 team from the Bottesford-based secondary school broke new ground in reaching the semi-finals of the English Schools FA Small Schools Trophy.
They hosted the northwest champions, De La Salle Academy, from Liverpool, at Grantham Town FC, and were facing a penalty shoot-out after a goalless 90 minutes.
But the visitors grabbed a spectacular long-range winner with just three minutes of extra-time remaining.
Priory Belvoir had beaten teams from Chester, Doncaster and Derbyshire on the way to reaching the last four, and started brightly, playing some decent football across the back and into midfield early on.
Both teams were evenly-matched and worked hard to limit space, but De la Salle’s centre-forward caused Belvoir problems all game.
And it took an outstanding point-blank save from Charlesworth to deny him.
At the other end Belvoir created a few chances of their own.
A throw-in, rehearsed on the training ground, led to a close-range volley from team captain Gilbertson, but the keeper made a great save.
Gilbertson then found himself on the end of a fantastic Trenam set-piece, but he couldn’t find the back of the net.
The game remained tight with both teams matching each other step-for-step and the Belvoir defence starting to double up on De La Salle’s dangerous number nine.
The home team almost snatched it right at the end of normal time when another quality set piece was met by Cullen who leapt above the defenders, but his header rebounded off the bar.
Both teams remained organised and resilient in defence in extra time.
Beeston was working hard to break down play in midfield, and Smith was impressive, as always, on the left, while Gilbertson also produced a fantastic captain’s performance.
But with three minutes left before penalties, De La Salle’s striker finally broke the deadlock with a 25-yard strike which flew into the top corner.
Priory Belvoir were heartbroken, but have an opportunity to put things right in the County Schools Cup final on Tuesday, March 6.
Team: A. Charlesworth, J. Greet, J. Gilbertson (capt), L. Butler, T. Whiting, A. Smith, H. Trenam, J. Beeston, B. Cullen, T. Craven, M. Cox, H. Veitch.