Earl Marshall Under 11s played their first 11 aside matches in August last year with friendlies against teams from each of the top four divisions. Despite losing to Division A side Sheffield United Junior Blades 9-2 in their first game, a draw and two wins, including an impressive 5-1 scoreline against last seasons Division D champions Maltby Juniors, ensured that there was a real sense of optimism as the season got underway.
A 6-1 defeat at home to Sheffield Wednesday Young Owls in the first game was a big disappointment and things didn’t improve in the next home game against Porter when Earl Marshall let a 2-0 lead slip allowing the visitors to take a point in a 2-2 draw. Another defeat at Hackenthorpe Juniors left Earl Marshall with just 1 point from a possible 9. The Trophy provided some consolation, with a 9-0 victory at the expense of Hallam Rangers in the Preliminary round.
A string of wins
October started well with three straight wins, two in the league and one in the Trophy. The players were now starting to look more confident as they got to grips with the 11 aside game. A 4-2 defeat at home to Darfield was a set back and a warning against complacency, it was a game Earl Marshall could easily have won but they responded well with three league wins, scoring three in each game against Junior Fox, Norton Lees and Rotherham Town. The run of form took Earl Marshall up to 5th in the table, it also ensured that they were full of self belief when they faced Beighton Falcons in the 2nd Round of the Trophy winning the game 5-4 in extra time.
Battling to the semi final
Earl Marshall suffered their heaviest defeat of the season against runaway leaders Sheffield Wednesday Young Owls losing 7-0 on a windswept pitch at the beginning of December. Once again they seemed to be saving their best for the Trophy, a battling performance against Division E’s unbeaten Sheffield Six’s on New Years Eve saw Earl Marshall claim their place in the Semi Final after another 5-4 extra time victory.
The new year got underway with a 5-3 win away to Millhouses Juniors. Again Earl Marshall showed their ability to adapt to the varying quality of away pitches with the game played on a very heavy surface. It was back at Hinde House where the form continued to be erratic and a week later, a frustrating 3-2 home defeat upset the team’s efforts to push for a top three finish. Despite facing Darfield with a depleted squad Earl Marshall bounced back recording their biggest ever win, a 10-0 thrashing of fellow promotion hopefuls. The game was the first in a series of 6 straight wins including a comfortable Trophy Semi Final win against Hackenthorpe Juniors which set Earl Marshall up for a second successive appearance in the Trophy final. Their league form was equally impressive, a hard fought 2-1 win away at Greasborough (ending their 100% home record) was followed by an emphatic win over second placed Hackenthorpe. The 6-1 victory included a brilliant end to end passing move by Earl Marshall, a contender for goal of the season and testimony to their increasingly effective play. Despite losing a week later to Greasborough at home, Earl Marshall still looked capable of taking third place. They enjoyed two away wins over Dinnington and Porter but failure to do the double over Dinnington, two weeks after they had beaten them 8-0, put paid to the chance of a third place finish and promotion to Division C.
The Trophy final
A week after their disappointment in the league Earl Marshall faced Worksop Boys in the Trophy Final. Earl Marshall took the lead early on but despite looking fairly comfortable were pegged back in the second half. With the teams level after normal time, extra time followed. Earl Marshall looked to have won the tie with a fine solo effort from Kenan McKenzie Grey but Worksop leveled minutes later and Earl Marshall had to face their first ever penalty shoot out, eventually losing the final with the last kick of the tie.
Despite the disappointments, Earl Marshall had put in some superb displays over the season and the considerable progress made by all the team, combined with a greater resolve, will put them in a very strong position to contend for silverware at Under 12s level.