Debenham flying the flag for Suffolk

A SUFFOLK school is punching above its weight in a national competition.

Debenham High School, which has only 600 pupils, has won six matches to reach the last 16 of the English Schools’ FA Under-13 Trophy.

The team, coached and managed by Oliver Hughes, is waiting to hear who its opponents will be in the next round, when a place in the quarter-finals will be at stake.

After winning both the county cup and North Suffolk Cup last season, the school decided to take part in the ESFA Under-13 Trophy, which attracted more than 800 entrants nationwide.

Debenham defeated Attleborough High School 9-0, after leading 8-0 at half time, in the first round, before returning to Norfolk to face Taverham High School and winning 5-2, after trailing 2-1 at the interval.

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The Suffolk side saw off Great Yarmouth High School at home in the third round, leading 8-0 at half time when the match was abandoned due to the weather with the result allowed to stand.

Debenham then beat Beccles High School 3-1 in the fourth round, before winning 4-3 away to Shoeburyness High School near Southend in the fifth round, despite losing 2-0 at the break.

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Bishop’s Stortford visited Debenham in the sixth round and were defeated 3-1, after conceding three first-half goals.

The star of the team is captain George Fowler, a central midfielder who is in the Ipswich Academy and has so far scored 12 goals in the six games and is the competition’s leading scorer overall. His twin brother Henry plays at centre half while strikers Ewan Ralph and Liam Forster have scored eight goals between them.

Hughes, who is a PE teacher at the school, said: “An awful lot now depends on the draw - we have not necessarily played against better teams as we have gone further in the competition.

“The match at Taverham was a difficult game in the second round and we could have been knocked out of the competition early on, but having got through the boys have grown in confidence and character and they have not let their heads drop when they have gone behind in games.

“At Shoeburyness we were losing 2-0 at half time and Henry (Fowler) had gone off after being injured in the build-up to their second goal just before the break, so we were right up against it having used our one and only substitute, but George (Fowler) scored four goals in the space of ten minutes early in the second half to win the game.”

Only four East Anglian sides remain in the competition - the other three are from Brentwood, Cambridge and Huntingdon - and Debenham now face an away game against Northampton School for Boys or Longsands College from Huntingdon, with the tie to be played before Saturday, February 5.

“We would have preferred a home draw,” said Hughes, who added he would not like to predict how far Debenham can go in the competition.

“I am not going to rule us out, but I think we will sooner or later come up against one of the big inner-city schools, which will really put the boys to the test.

“We have played some good teams, but there are far bigger schools than us - we have got 600 pupils here and only 60 boys to choose our squad of 13 or 14 from, which is quite impressive really considering some schools have 150-200 boys to select from.”

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