After an excellent EFL U13s Girls Cup run, Mansfield Town were beaten 2-0 by Derby County in the Area Final.
t was a magnificent effort from the year seven and eight students from Rainworth-based Joseph Whitaker School, who earned the opportunity to represent the Stags by winning a local competition back in October.
Last weekend they made the journey to Nottingham Forest’s Community Trust complex to face the winners from nine other Community Trusts’ competitions.
Split into two groups, the Stags were drawn against representatives from Rotherham United, Lincoln City, Sheffield Wednesday and hosts Nottingham Forest – playing each side once with the top two teams progressing to the semi-final stages.
The Stags started brightly and recorded a 1-0 victory over Rotherham, before falling to a 1-0 loss against Sheffield Wednesday.
Despite going a goal down against Lincoln City in the third group match the girls fought back to draw 1-1 before having to again come from behind in the final group match, beating hosts Forest 3-1 in a victory which saw them top the group.
In the semi-final Mansfield faced Group A runners up Sheffield United and, after playing out a goalless draw through normal time and extra time, held their nerve to win 2-0 on penalties to progress to the final.
Sadly it wasn’t to be for the youngsters who were beaten 2-0 by Derby County, who took full advantage of the Stags’ fighting spirit, hitting them on the counter attack late on as Mansfield threw everything forward to try and get back in the game.
Emma Ridgeway, PE teacher at Joseph Whitaker School, said: “I thought the girls did really, really well.
“I’m so proud of their efforts and determination they’ve represented the club and the school in a really good light.
“They’re a talented bunch of girls and I think that they really got their rewards in reaching the final. I’m just really pleased with how far they progressed.
“Their fighting spirit is amazing. They’re willing to fight, they’re willing to compete and they really want to win and that’s great.
“They’re really self-motivated, which has shown and I think surprised some of their opposition.”
Community Manager Gary Shaw added: “I’m really proud of the girls’ efforts in reaching the final.
“The fighting spirit they showed in the final two group games was tremendous, as was their attitude throughout the day – the school should be really proud.
“This competition is great for the girls who perhaps don’t always get to compete on a regular basis.
“Each year we have more and more schools wanting to enter which just shows how passionate schools, teachers and pupils alike are about girls football.
“The students from Joseph Whitaker were predominately year seven girls whilst many others were a mixture of sevens and eights.
“So for them to hold their own and compete against a higher age group, who’ve had more time to develop, is a credit to them.
“We see a lot of these girls attending our sessions within the school and I think that will continue with an increase in numbers now, as the girls who were competing will share their stories and experiences with others.”