Sports Awards: Newcastle Town Under-18s continue to set new standards



Newcastle Town Under-18s are not just content with breaking records – they want to set new ones which are unlikely to be broken.

Castle’s youngsters have made the Sentinel Cup their own in recent years and broke the competition record in 2018 by making it four successive wins.

That’s no mean feat considering that it is the oldest continuously running competition in world football, launched back in 1892/93.

But were Newcastle happy with their lot? Not a bit of it. And last year they ensured that they maintained their stranglehold on the silverware with another success with the likes of twins Tom and Sam Wytcherley, Zac Brightmore and Owen Rowley playing starring roles.

Their fifth straight competition victory is surely a benchmark which will never be beaten.

However, they were made to work hard to ensure that they were able to defend their title once more.

Final opponents Abbey Hulton United were in no mood to lie down in the bet365 Stadium showpiece back in April.

They had performed valiantly with keeper Jacob Holding in inspired form, particularly after they had taken the lead on the stroke of half-time through Reagen Lymer.

Owen Rowley finally found an equaliser midway through the second-half – but the game remained in the balance and on course for extra-time until Rob Thorley stepped up with an 85th-minute thunderbolt.

Twin brother Tom Thorley then capped the evening for Castle with a last-minute header to make it 3-1 and ensure that the trophy stayed at Lyme Valley.

It was also another feather in the cap for manager Steve Barker, who has continued to develop the team since he led them to the Sentinel Shield title as under-16s back in 2017.

He said: “I thought Abbey played superbly well. The goal in the first half caught us off guard a little bit and then they defended their lead really well.

“They made life really difficult for us. We knew their keeper would be hard to get past – and needing to get past him twice was very hard.

“We changed the personnel at half-time. We didn’t think we got the ball wide enough in the first half, we didn’t stretch the pitch well enough, and that seemed to do the trick in terms of momentum, but the goals still didn’t come.

“We finally got it with a goal that the referee is getting a bit of flak for (Abbey claimed a foul in the build-up) but we played to the whistle, rounded the keeper to equalise and that settled the nerves.

“Then, what a second goal to win it. You will not see a better goal. It deserved to win any football match.”

And while the trophies and accolades are nice, it is not the main reason why Castle connections have reason to celebrate.

Plenty of youngsters have graduated from their youth set up to feature in the first team in the BetVictor League.

“They are formidable in their own age group and now they are stepping up to adult football and proving their worth there. I’m proud of them,” added Barker.

“It’s an unbelievable achievement (to win it five times on the trot). I remember coming down and watching the first one and at the time I was running a development squad for the club.

“I never dreamed I would be in a position to run a squad of this quality and win it for a fifth time in a row.”

Newcastle have now been nominated in the Junior Team category at the Sentinel/City of Stoke-on-Trent Sports Personality of the Year Awards.

And who would bet against them having to make more room in their trophy cabinet?





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