Seven-a-side finals and a tribute to Darren

It’s been an unusual season, to say the very least; but the final 7-a-side matchday didn’t disappoint as the League reached a stunning climax at Concord Sports Centre in Sheffield on Sunday afternoon, writes Margaret Gregory and Colin Muncie for www.southyorkshireabilitycountsleague.com.

The afternoon – which stayed dry throughout – also featured a moving tribute to former Secretary Darren Warner, whose wife Sharon and son Jordan spent the afternoon with the teams. The League Committee and clubs made a series of presentations to Sharon, and Aston Swallownest coach James Scally paid his own very personal tribute, as did City Knights coach Sharon Lavender. League Chairman Mike Stylianou led the tributes, which ended with a short poem of remembrance.

Players pay tribute to the late, great Darren Warner.

Vernon Thompson and Julie Lambert led a group of visitors from Sherwood Colliery Ability Counts FC who had made the trip across from Nottinghamshire to pay tribute to their great friend.

Sharon presented the League winners and runners-up with their trophies and medals; with the inaugural Darren Warner Fair Play trophy going to Wheatley Wanderers, chosen by Referees Secretary Sean Wright and his colleagues on the basis of their outstanding sportsmanship during the season. This award meant a great deal to Chris Pow and his squad – the first winners of the trophy in Darren Warner’s name.

Congratulations to them and thank you to Sharon and Jordan for spending the afternoon in the company of the players her husband did so much to champion, support and encourage.

Darren would have been thrilled by the standard of football on show across all three pitches on Sunday, with a number of issues unresolved going into the final day. Sadly, there were no spectators on hand to witness the action, but as always, the League’s Covid-19 safety protocols were rigorously enforced, with temperature checks and track and trace recording on arrival, liberal application of hand sanitiser and each squad remaining in their own bubble when not in competitive action.

It was pretty clear that City Knights Black would emerge as Champions from the Premier Division going into Sunday’s fixtures, and they rounded out their season with two wins over Sheffield Red. Sheffield Black clinched the runners-up spot, drawing with Club Doncaster Titans (White) but gaining three points against Derek Dooley Sheffield United Kicks FC. Dooley coach Claire Cowlishaw reflected on her side’s narrow defeat. “This was a well-balanced match with some good attacking and defending by both teams,” Claire told us. “Dooley were talking to each other and were working together with a few shots, but not getting past the goalkeeper. They went behind just before half time.”

“The second half saw some good solid defending and good goalkeeping by Dom to keep them in the game. Brad got the ball in the net from a free kick sailing past everyone and into the goal; shame no-one touched it to bring them level.” 

Dooley’s fared better in their later match with Club Doncaster Titans (White) and clinched all three points. Here’s Claire again; “This match saw a shuffling of positions and Jack going up front where he had a few shots saved. Some solid defending by Adam and great goalkeeping from Nick, saving a few shots and going down to save from his right. Stephen chased a ball stopping it from going out and passing it to Brad who shot and scored to have us winning at half-time. Second half carried on with a balanced match and Elliott scored to increase their lead. Then a shot that couldn’t be stopped brought Doncaster back into the game.”

Claire summed up the afternoon. “It was a great final day of this weird season seeing the team relegated to a more balanced League.”

“This day would have made Darren so proud,” Claire added, “he was a lovely man who will be missed by many. Lovely to hear all the comments, what a man he was, and it was a fitting tribute to create the Darren Warner Fair Play award.” 

With the dust finally settled, the 7-a-side Premier Division table looked like this. Congratulations to City Knights Black and Sheffield Black on their fine seasons.

POSTEAMPLDWDLGFGAGDPTS
1City Knights Black 8710817 22
2Sheffield Black 8431743 15
3Club Doncaster Titans White 813447-3 6
4Sheffield Red 813447-3 6
5D. Dooley Sheffield United Kicks 812537-4 5

It couldn’t have been closer in the 7-a-side Championship, setting up a thrilling 8-minute play-off between Bradford City Disability FC Amber and Aston Swallownest Red.

Before that however, both sides had won both of their final day fixtures to share the lead at the top of the table with identical records and on 21 points each.

Bradford City Amber enjoyed two wins over Derek Dooley Orange. Bradford’s Stefan Dubej takes up the story, “Well done to the Ambers – Champions of the Championship!”

“In our first game, the result was Bradford City DFC Ambers 3 Derek Dooley Orange 0. The first half was close but in the second half we got our noses in front and managed to add to that and got a 3-0 win. Goals by George, McKenzie and Jordan.”

Claire Cowlishaw agreed with Stefan’s assessment.  “The first game was even in the first half, showing solid performances from Nathan and Richard as leaders and good defending by Clark with some super goalkeeping saves by Nathan F,” Claire told Syacl.com. ”The second half carried on as before, but then a lovely shot by Bradford saw them take the lead. This was soon followed by another -but the team didn’t let their heads go down and kept trying against the top of the League.”

In the second game Bradford City DFC beat Derek Dooley Orange 2-0. “It was the same again in the second game,” Stefan recounted.  “We took the lead with a McKenzie thunderbolt followed by an equally good finish from George.”

“The second game carried on at the same pace with both teams making some good runs down, only to be saved by the goalkeepers,” Dooley’s Claire Cowlishaw reported.

Meanwhile, Aston Swallownest Red enjoyed wins over Brunsmeer Awareness -coming from two goals behind – and over Wheatley Wanderers to set up a highly-charged play off.

The 8-minute shoot out saw Bradford City Amber take a two-goal lead, but Aston hit back to set up a tense last few minute. 

Stefan reflected on that tense finale. “So, into the play off we went and it was close to start with. Aston had a few chances but some good saves by John kept it equal. We got a free kick and George spotted a gap and belted in the first goal, from near the half-way line, closely followed by some good team work that resulted in another goal from George. Despite a late goal from Aston, we held on for the victory and the win to make us Champions.”

“I’m so proud of all my players for the effort over the season,” beamed Stefan, “and especially today when we knew we had to win all 3 games. Fantastic!  I also have to mention Henry who couldn’t be with us this weekend, but has been an important part of the team.”

 “My players of the day: John; Chris; James; Jordan; George; Ali; Rhys; Mo and McKenzie – my full squad.”

Wheatley’s Chris Pow gave SYACL.com his take on the afternoon’s events. “We lost our first match to Brunsmeer which was an important game, as we could have escaped relegation with a good win. We put up a great fight, but the game was settled by a good goal on the break.”

Wheatley rounded off their season against title-chasing Aston Swallownest Red. “With nothing to play for but pride, we tried our hardest without subs against this fast, young side,” Chris reported. “Our highlight was Lance scoring a long-distanced shot that got a deflection on its way in.”

“Thanks for a great year. We’ll be back for next season,” Chris signed off; Our congratulations to Wheatley on their well-earned Fair Play award. 

Aston Swallownest Red Coach James Scally was disappointed but proud in equal measure. Writing on his Facebook page, James said “Well done to my Aston teams finishing second in both their Leagues.”

“For the Reds, the play-off was a step too far and maybe the occasion got to the lads, which is normal. I’ve not had a play-off before, so it was new to me too. My lads worked so hard, so hopefully it will be third time lucky.”

“We got closer to going up – that’s all I can ask.”

In the other fixture, there was a win for Brunsmeer Awareness, giving them their second win of the campaign, leaving Wheatley in fifth place, but with the well-deserved consolation of the first-ever Darren Warner Fair Play Award.

The frantic finale meant that the final Championship table was as follows, with our congratulations to Bradford City Amber and Aston Swallownest Red.

POSTEAMPLDWDLGFGAGDPTS
1Bradford City Amber980181724
2Aston Swallownest Red970272521
3Derek Dooley Orange822446-28
4Brunsmeer Awareness821536-37
5Wheatley Wanderers801718-71

Bradford City Blue went into the final Match Day knowing that they would be crowned as Division One Champions; finishing their campaign with a win and a defeat against City Knights Blue.

Reflecting on the first game, Coach Daniel Johnson told SYACL.com, “we started off a bit sluggish, but Stephen got hold of the ball at the left-hand side of the pitch and struck it. The City Knights keeper seemed to get in front of the ball, but it just managed to go in between the keeper’s legs.

“The second goal came again from Stephen assisted by Luke from the edge of the area. The second-half came and the third goal from Tim assisted by Ethan from inside the area; 2 minutes from time Luke stuck a sweet shot from outside the area assisted by Ethan to make it 4. Our Player of the game was Ethan McLaren.”

There was a surprise first defeat in their final game of the season, as City Knights Blue exacted convincing revenge for that earlier defeat. Daniel was philosophical, having rung the changes for that last game.  “It was a very shocking score-line that the management team have to take ownership of for changing things around for the second game, Daniel admitted. City Knights played really well winning the first half 4-0 then things got changed back to original line-up, but still we couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net and conceded another 2 goals losing 6-0.”

“Well done to City Knights Player of this Game – Mark Dalton.”

On a happier note, Daniel celebrated a successful season.  “Despite the results of the day we had started the day already Champions. A big well done to Bradford City DFC Blues – Champions of League One.”

Aston Swallownest Blue enjoyed a thrilling end to their first season by clinching second place under coach Nathan Fox, who admitted to a tense afternoon! Two wins over Sheffield White meant that despite two wins of their own, Club Doncaster Titans Red couldn’t catch the team from Aston to the delight of coach James Scally.

“For the Blues, their first season has been fantastic; even though on a few match days they have been short of players, it’s a great achievement,” James admitted.

“So well done to both teams – up the Aston Swallownest!”

It was a tough afternoon for Bradford City Clarets, as they went down to City Knights Blues and Doncaster Titans.

“It was a bad day for the Bradford City DFC Clarets again today,” Paul Jubb admitted to Syacl.com.  “They lost their first game 4-0 to City Knights Blues. City Knights were too strong on the day and overcame our young side easily.”

“Clarets also lost their second game 6-2 to Doncaster Titans,” Paul added. “There were two good goals from Eddie Ratcliffe at the end of the game.” Steven Jowett was Player of the Day today.”

“This was the Clarets first season at 7-a-side and they have a lot to learn,” Paul concluded.  “Their highlight of the season was beating the Bradford City DFC Blues 2 1 at Bradford Goals!” 

Congratulations to Bradford City Blue and to Aston Swallownest Blue, who occupy top spots in the final Division One table of the season.

POSTEAMPLDWDLGFGAGDPTS
1Bradford City Blue 10 9 0 1 9 1 8 27
2Aston Swallownest Blue 10 6 0 4 6 4 2 18
3Club Doncaster Titans Red 10 4 2 4 5 5 0 14
4City Knights Blue 10 3 4 3 6 6 0 13
5Bradford City Claret 10 1 3 6 4 9 -5 6
6Sheffield White 10 0 5 5 3 8 -5 5

So, the 7-a-side season comes to a thrilling, poignant conclusion. Thanks to all our fantastic players, coaches, our Chairman Mike Stylianou, Secretary Paul Jubb and Referee’s Secretary Sean Wright, and of course to our brilliant Website Editor, Margaret Gregory.

Thanks to Sharon Warner and son Jordan for sharing the final day with us, and to Concord Sports Centre for hosting our competition, and congratulations to all our winners.

Next week it’s the turn of the 5-a-side lads and lasses who wrap up their own season at Goals Sheffield.

Stay tuned to www.sheffieldabilitycountsleague.com for latest news and reports; and to our Twitter feed @syacl.

And finally, more photos on the day.

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