Plymouth's Hele's go out of English Schools FA Cup semi final with their heads held high
CITY school Hele's couldn't quite navigate the final hurdle to the English Schools' FA Cup final – but they did themselves proud trying.
Hele's under-16s football team lost 1-0 to Chelmer Valley High School at Brickfields in a game which could have gone either way.
The goal which sealed the Essex visitors' place in the final, due to be held at Burton Albion, wasn't scored until the second half, when Chelmer's Tyler Brampton volleyed home a right-wing cross from close range.
But Hele's could have been on their way to a memorable day out in Staffordshire on March 18 had they taken their chances in yesterday's first period.
Two Hele's players – striker Callum Hall and midfielder Tom Moxham, both on Plymouth Argyle's books – worked their socks off in the first 45 minutes, but couldn't find a way through an organised Chelmer defence.
On a pitted surface which made it difficult to control the ball, Hall was unlucky not to score when he created a chink of space for himself and unleashed a vicious left-footed drive well saved by the visiting goalkeeper.
Chelmer could have scored from one free-kick, then nearly did from another set-piece, which Hele's goalkeeper Jake Matthews did well to tip over.
Hall's speed briefly got him clear of the Chelmer defence, but a host of yellow shirts converged to divert him away from the visitors' goal and the chance was gone.
Yet another eluded the Hele's hit-man when he got rid of his marker for a split second and bore down on the Chelmer goal, but he was ruled offside.
Hall and Moxham almost combined to get the striker in, but Hall's header went wide.
It was turning out not to be Hall's day. He dug the ball out from a mix-up in the Chelmer defence and was denied by a last-ditch tackle.
Flank man Jack Collier, who never stopped working down the right, could have pinched the lead for Hele's just before the break.
Harry Heath got free on the left and planted an innocuous cross which evaded the back-pedalling Chelmer defence.
The ball found Collier on the right, but his snap shot, aided and abetted by the bumpy pitch, flew over the cross-bar.
Chelmer, having survived several scares before the break, gradually took over the match in the second period.
They got the goal they deserved when Brampton netted and could have had a second when a shot scraped the Hele's crossbar.
Hele's heads never went down and they nearly snatched an equaliser late on.
They forced a series of corners as time ran out. Midfielder Sam Leary got on the end of one of them, but planted his header just wide.
Coach Matt Cusack said afterwards: "The lads worked extremely hard, but unfortunately we didn't take our chances when we were on top in the first half.
"It was disappointing, but what was probably more disappointing was that we beat a better team (Durrington) in the last round.
"Having said that, they did really well. If you'd said that we'd be one of the top four schools in the country at the beginning of the game, then we probably would have taken it."
Cusack added: "The lads will be too old to have another go next year, but we've got a few teams coming through.
"Hopefully, we'll be back in the same position again one day."