Having won the London Cup in 2013/14 as Under 11s, the 2014/15 Under 12 team battled through four difficult ties over the winter months to earn the chance to compete in the final once again. The excellent pitch at Long Lane JFC in South London was the venue and FC Unity were the opponents.
After a downpour an hour and a half before kick off, the match kicked off with a strong wind favouring Ryan FC who had most of the early chances with the best of them falling to Luke May-Parrott and Max Harding respectively. The game settled into a pattern of sorts with FC Unity playing some excellent passing football but being met by stern resistance from an outstanding Ryan FC defence, Frankie Licheri, Riley Conn (playing out of position at centre back) and George Anderson. Set piece opportunities came and went for both teams and it remained 0-0 at half time. Regan Perry in the Ryan FC goal was rarely troubled.
The second half was more of the same with FC Unity taking advantage of the conditions but rarely creating any clear goal scoring opportunities. The most difficult save that Jack Moore had to make in the half came off one of his own defenders. Samuel Cooper was particularly important in the centre of the Ryan FC midfield in limiting FC Unity's chances. Equally, for all the clever midfield play from Jayden Halls, the pace of Keon Taylor and the power of Conor Medhurst and Jahsiah Weekes the clear cut chances would just not come. In fact, the closest the game came to a goal in normal time was an effort ruled out correctly for offside coming from Ryan FC's captain, Frankie Licheri. Normal time ended at 0-0.
A tactical change for the first period of extra time for Ryan FC, who were playing with the wind once again, ensured a solidity in defence and midfield to combat any fatigue setting in but the first 10 minute period yielded few opportunities. The combination of another tactical change for the second half of extra time, combined with both sets of players growing increasingly tired, saw Ryan FC's best passage of play for the whole game and several good opportunities came and went including a wonderful long range effort from Luke May- Parrott that went just over the bar. However, in the final 30 seconds FC Unity had a dangerous free kick but, once again, Ryan FC's resolute defence held out and 80 minutes of football ended scoreless.
So - the dreaded penalty shoot out and the chance for goal keepers to take centre stage. Ryan FC won the toss and elected to go first. Conor Medhurst dispatched his penalty with ease into the bottom left hand corner and the first FC Unity player put his effort wide. Riley Conn, the team's regular penalty taker, scored the second and although FC Unity scored things were looking good for the Ryan FC team. Then came a run of three successive Ryan FC penalties that were well saved but this was matched by Jack Moore saving 2 out the next 3 FC Unity penalties to ensure that after the compulsory 5 kicks each, the score was tied at 2-2. Sudden death and Jayden Halls stepped up to take penalty number six and got the reward he deserved for being the team's best attacking player on the day by scoring low to the keeper's left. FC Unity's keeper and captain stepped up to keep his team in the game and, although it was hit to Jack Moore's left, the London FA's choice as Man of the Match pulled off a great save to give Ryan FC a dramatic 3-2 win on penalties. Cue scenes of wild celebration from all the Ryan FC team.
Ryan FC Manager, Tony Medhurst, said, "It was a gutsy team performance where we did not play our best football of the season but we hung in there for the win. We had boys who were injured less than 48 hours before the game, who had been unwell all Friday and who were playing out of position but there is a never say die attitude with this group of boys who play for each other at all times. I would like to pay tribute to our opponents on the day, FC Unity, for the excellent sportsmanship displayed by their players, coaching team and parents/supporters that made a great occasion even better. Finally I would like to thank the coaching team of Steve Parrott and Ash Moore for all their expertise, support and wise words as well as the parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, extended family and friends that traveled to support the team. The boys really appreciate all that you do for them."