Warrington crowned as champions!

By David Watters

Warrington Town’s next generation of stars are looking forward to kicking off as the NPL Football Academy’s 2018 champions next season after beating Matlock Town to the crown.

Pictured at Leek Town’s Harrison Park, 2017-18 Joma Division winners Warrington Town Yellows beat the Chryso Division champions Matlock Town Whites to lift the ‘Jordan Burndred Memorial Trophy’ as the new champions of the Northern Premier League's ground-breaking academy.

The NPLFA students put on a great show on Friday night in Staffordshire to decide the 2017-18 season's top team. After a cagey opening, it was the Derbyshire club's youngsters who took a first half advantage when Josh Devereux’s free-kick was bundled home, much to the delight of his teammates despite the Yellows protesting for a foul on goalkeeper Josh Wainwright.

Shortly after the break, the game exploded in the space of sixty seconds, NPLFA ‘Player of the Year’ Aron McGrath getting the Cheshire side back on level terms with a smart finish. The Gladiators hit back immediately from the re-start when Liam Carrington played a long ball to Lucas Brough who did well to beat his man and square it back to Carrington. He was brought down by Alex Jones to win a penalty, Josh Devereux stepping up to put the Gladiators back in front.

Late drama decided the ‘Grand Final’ for the second year in a row, McGrath equalising for the second time in the game, this time in the 87th minute, after a superb passing move that started with Wainwright at the back and ended with the silky midfielder netting with a close finish.

With the game looking like it would be decided on penalties, Warrington had one more chance in the 96th minute from a Wainwright free-kick inside Matlock’s half and they took it, Bobbie Mcdonnell sparking wild celebrations from the students when Danny Hamlett headed on and he turned and struck the winner past Alfie Smith-Eccles.

The Jordan Burndred Memorial Trophy was presented for the first time last season to honour the memory of Leek Town NPLFA student Jordan Burndred who died in tragic circumstances in 2016 while on holiday with his family in Turkey aged 17.

Jordan’s family were present on the evening to present his memorial trophy to the Cheshire club's stars of the future who ended the three year winning run of Mickleover Sports in such dramatic fashion to become overall champions. A total of £200 was also raised on the night with all proceeds going to The Jordan Burndred Memorial Fund.

To watch the highlights of the final, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zi_SM8EJXWw&feature=youtu.be.

The NPLFA was founded with the backing of the Football Association at five pilot clubs in September 2014 to provide career pathways into the football industry with youngsters studying on two year BTEC courses.

Still the only league-wide academy in English football combining sport with education and now expanded to 12 members clubs, the NPLFA welcomed its fourth intake of students this season while launching a new higher education partnership with Loughborough University so students could continue their studies to degree level within the Northern Premier League.

For further details and information on the NPLFA’s football education programme, visit www.nplfa.co.uk or contact them at info@nplfa.co.uk.

Images courtesy of @NPLFA/Twitter

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