Wokingham & Emmbrook U18s must sweat on title decisionBy Adam Lee
May 13, 2010
Wokingham & Emmbrook’s Under-18 team will have to wait to see if they are to be crowned champions of the Allied Counties league.
The Satsumas’ youth team sit top of the Allied Counties Premier Division, but they can still be overtaken by Wealdstone, the North London club still have five more games to play – all of which must be fulfilled by the end of this week.
With a game scheduled for Thursday and another for Saturday, it seems highly unlikely that Wealdstone will be able to play their full quota of games – meaning the title could be handed to Roger Herridge’s Wokingham boys.
However, the Allied Counties league officials will have to make a final decision on the matter, and in the meantime Wokingham and Wealdstone may have to hold tight on the outcome – unless of course Wealdstone drop points in their two scheduled games.
Whatever the decision by the league this season represents a monumental achievement by the team.
Because Allied Counties games are played under floodlights, the team have not been able to play at a ‘home’ ground, and have instead played their home games at an incredible seven different clubs this season.
They have had to travel as far afield as Abingdon United and Oxford City to fulfill home fixtures, while they have also played home games at Reading Town, Bracknell Town, Palmer Park, Henley Town and Maidenhead United.
Added to this, week in week out Wokingham come up against clubs that, on paper, should blow them out of the water.
Playing against sides like Maidenhead United, Hayes & Yeading, Wealdstone, Oxford City and Slough Town, Wokingham are facing opponents whose first teams are playing up to four levels above their own.
But Wokingham have once again defied the odds to guarantee themselves at least a top-two finish for the second season in a row, much to the delight of manager Herridge.
“I’m very proud of them yet again,” he said.
“We don’t have the biggest resources compared to some of the other teams in the league, and because of a lack of support from the council we don’t have a home ground.
“We’ve also played a lot of games in a short space of time, but we have punched above out weight yet again this year.
“Now we just have to wait and see what the league awards.
“If we’re runners-up we have had a great season, but if we win the league we deserve to win it.
“We have got a small squad of players and we have shown the strength of football in our area and the importance of a strong youth set up.”
“It’s a big ask because you’re playing against some really, really established non-leage clubs who have got big youth set ups, so to finish runners-up last year was great and to emmulate that this year and possibly win it is beyond our wildest dreams.”
Wokingham could have sealed the title on Tuesday night at Henley Town, when they actually faced Wealdstone, but it wasn’t to be as they went down 3-2.
Wokingham took an early lead as Mitch Flaherty finished well after a sweeping team move.
They grew in confidnce as the half went on and looked by far the better side.
However, with five minutes to go before the break, Wealdstone broke through the Wokingham defence and Jack Gibbs gave away a penalty, which Wealdstone duly scored to make it 1-1 at half-time.
The visitors upped their game in the second half, and made it 2-1 with a close-range finish following a corner.
Wealdstone made it 3-1 when a looping cross evaded the keeper and found its way in, but rather than let their heads drop, Wokingham came back stronger.
With 10 minutes to go Danny Horscroft crossed for Jordan Polston to make it 3-2, and from then on it was all Wokingham. However, they failed to find the equaliser, and fell to their first league defeat since mid December.
And although Herridge admits it was disappointing not to seal the title earlier this week, he can’t fault the efforts of the players.
Indeed three U18 regulars, Alex Luis, Shane Cooper-Clark and Danny Horscroft, have also played the majority of games for the first team in the Hellenic League.
“It was a close match and there wasn’t much in it,” said Herridge.
“We put an awful lot into the game and didn’t deserve to come away with nothing.
“Shane and AJ (Luis) have shown unbelievable commitment and I hate to think how many games they must have played this season.
“They couldn’t have given anymore and it would have been lovely to have won the league on Tuesday, but we’ll wait and see what happens.”
— Wokingham & Emmbrook are already preparing for the 2010/11 season and Roger Herridge urges any boys who will be in school Years 11 to 13 in September to contact him on 07540 825161 if they are interested in playing.