District aces take chance to impress at Palace

Camden and Islington sides take part in competition hosted at Premier League club

Thursday, 24th February — By Steve Barnett

Islington's Primary District

Islington’s players put in some stylish displays on their way to the semi-finals

SCORES of talented young footballers from across Camden and Islington got the chance to showcase their skills in front of top scouts from a Premier League club during their half-term holidays.

Crystal Palace FC, managed by former Arsenal legend Patrick Vieira, invited 10 primary school-aged district football teams from acrossLondon to take part in the CPFC District Cup.

Held at the club’s new academy training ground in Beckenham, Team Camden “put in a great effort on the pitch” with young hotshot Alfie Demitriou scoring two goals in their four games.

In the end, however, they couldn’t quite turn their performances into results as they drew one and lost three of their four games – including losing to South London, who went on to win the competition.

“This was a great experience for the boys as they have been working very hard,” said Camden District coach Kez Soornack.

“They are starting to demonstrate what we’ve been going through in training.”

Islington’s Primary District football team also took part in the 7v7 tournament, fairing somewhat better than their neighbouring rivals as they came through their group and progressed to the semi-finals.

Islington started in style as they won 4-0 against Westminster in their opening game, thanks to a hat-trick from Liam Hamann Chanes and a goal from Noah Odinma.

It would take “dedicated defensive work” from Vlad Dukochaev, Ryan Williams, Jared Payne and Laurie Gregory to help Islington earn a point from their second match as they drew 0-0 against eventual finalists West Sussex.

Having recorded two assists in the opening match, Kash Thompson was again pulling the strings in Islington’s third outing as he set up two more goals for Odinma against Lewisham.

Islington in action during the cup competition that was hosted by Crystal Palace

Then came Islington’s best team goal of the day. Caleb May-Olajide was under pressure in his own corner but stayed calm, manipulating the ball until he could find a pass out to Louis Munslow-Ong. He in turn fed Hamann Chanes who switched the ball across to Mert Polat.

He hit a superb diagonal cross to Nahom Fitsum beyond the far post, who controlled the cross superbly before smashing an unstoppable shot past the goalkeeper. With just minutes left on the clock Odinma completed his hat-trick to seal another emphatic 4-0 win.

A 1-0 victory over Merton saw Islington remain undefeated in the group stages – and all without conceding a single goal.

The winner came courtesy of an outstanding solo goal from Ryan Williams, who jinked past three players before driving a low shot from distance inside the near post.

It was a wonderful strike, made even better by the fact that Williams hit the shot with his less-preferred right foot.

In their semi-final Islington were paired against a strong South London side, who had won their group and were littered with academy players from professional clubs. South London showed their quality as they raced into a 2-0 lead inside the first three minutes.

Islington got themselves back into the game when an excellent corner from Tom O’Keefe was met on the volley by Joshua James Darko-Obiri. South London restored their two-goal advantage before Darko-Obiri scored again to set up a grandstand finish – but in the end Islington couldn’t find the all-important equaliser as they lost 3-2.

“It was a superb effort from the boys,” said Islington manager Michael MacNeill. “They played some great football and showed they could hold their own against academy players. The Crystal Palace scouts in attendance were very impressed with them.

“All 15 players should hold their heads high and, whilst they were really disappointed to lose in the semi-final, we lost to the eventual winners 3-2, and drew 0-0 with the other finalist, so we’ve really shown our worth.

“I’d also like to say how well coaches Michael Peet and Nasia Adams did in managing the team. It’s difficult to organise 15 players in a seven-a-side tournament and ensure everyone gets good playing time and still stay competitive, but they managed it really well.”

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