SEFTON schoolboys suffered disappointment on Saturday when they were knocked out of the English Schools FA Under-15s Inter-Association Trophy in the most dramatic fashion by local rivals Liverpool.
Liverpool, who have won the competition 17 times in its history, were forced to dig deep on a bitterly cold morning at the Liverpool Soccer Centre to overcome a Sefton side who had matched them from the first kick of the game.
Nothing separated the two sides throughout an 80 minute battle of wits that saw very few clear-cut chances created and long spells of play in which neither side managed to settle, due to the obstinacy of the opposition.
However, a lingering sense pervaded that one moment of luck or inspiration could settle this game. And when that moment came, it was largely down to the perseverance of Liverpool’s Ian Vickers and his determination to chase down a seemingly over-hit pass that was heading out of play via the by-line.
Racing clear of the back four, he managed to get to the ball and hook it back over the head of Sefton keeper Tom Quinn, to where Ryan Shepperd was perfectly poised, unmarked at the far post to nod into an empty net before being mobbed by his overjoyed, not to mention relieved, teammates.
That defining moment seemed as though it would never come. The opportunities to break the deadlock had been scarce, while space was constricted and both teams were far too well organised to allow for any one player to stamp his mark on the game.
Dani Wuni and Vickers tried, linking-up on a number of occasions in an attempt to forge an opening; however such a threat never truly materialised and despite early pressure from Liverpool, it was Sefton who carved out the first real goal-scoring opportunity.
Phil Redmond seized the ball on the edge of the penalty area. Back to goal he shielded it from his marker before swivelling and driving a strike towards the far left corner, where it bounced off the post and rolled across the goal line before being cleared to safety.
At the other end, Liverpool came painstakingly close to opening the scoring on 20 minutes when Paul Dempsey burst towards the by-line and picked out Vickers unmarked in the middle of the penalty area.