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SCHOOLS' FOOTBALL: Oxon fulfil potential in super style
Oxfordshire's triumph in the ESFA Under 16 Inter County Trophy saw a highly-talented crop of players realise their outstanding potential.
Joint managers Des Williams and Steve Alman targeted success in this competition at the start of the season.
And they realised their dream in ultimately convincing fashion with a 6-2 win over Durham after extra time in the final at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.
Williams, whose three previous county sides to reach national finals were runners-up, said: “At the start of the season, the target was to win the competition, and we always knew that we were capable of doing that.
“We had strength in depth in every position, and the biggest problem was selecting a starting 11 for the final.”
Twelve of the lads started the season at Oxford United, with six of them – Josh Ashby, James Clarke, Jacob Hughes, Sam Humphreys, Conor Ingram and Duran Martin – going on to be offered two-year scholarships/ apprenticeships.
And Williams added that United’s co-operation in making boys available to play for the county had also been a significant factor in the success.
“The support we have had from Oxford United this season has been outstanding,” he added.
“Les Taylor and Des Buckingham have gone out of their way to be helpful. It is great to have a professional club being as supportive as that.”
However, it was centre back Dom Hyam, who is with Reading, who was Oxfordshire’s hero in the final with a hat-trick of headed goals.
Connor Halpin gave Durham the lead after 17 minutes, before Hyam headed home Liam Marshall’s free-kick for the equaliser.
A Jack Gurr own goal saw Oxon take the lead only for Durham to level on the hour as Halpin’s header hit Hyam and went into the net for an own goal.
Oxon ran riot in extra time with Hyam heading home two Marshall free-kicks, before Yassin Elouahabi scored from the penalty spot after Conor Ingram was brought down by keeper Lewis Brass, who was sent off.
Elouahabi’s second goal, with the last kick of the match, sealed the win.
It meant Oxon finished the season with nine victories from as many games, having also captured the Alex Perkins Shield for winning the Southern Counties League.