Zebras earn their stripes

EARNING THEIR STRIPES: Northgate High School's U16 Girls' football team, known as the Zebras, have won the Norfolk FA Cup for the first time in the school's history. This is a major achievement, especially in a season when much of the squad were travelling round England, pursuing their dream of becoming national champions. They were cruelly denied a place in the English FA Cup semi-finals by a 90th-minute equaliser when playing the London champions, losing in extra time to a team containing the England captain and Arsenal players. This at least allowed them to focus on more local success, and a depleted squad came away from Cromer in the semi-finals with a hard-fought 3-2 win. The final was against the favourites Hellesdon and prestigiously held at Aldiss Park, home of Norfolk Senior Cup winners Dereham Town. The Zebras had several injuries and were without their star player. However, in front of a large and noisy crowd, they battled from the off. Hellesdon bombarded the Zebras' goal, with Alice MacLoughlin, the keeper stopping everything. With players going down with cramp and the battle locked at 0-0, Zebras broke away and Whitney Hardy scored a fine individual goal which proved to be the winner. Hellesdon could not find their way through a hard-working midfield that fought like tigers. An impregnable defence was superbly marshalled by player of the match Charlie Walden. The Zebras will now rest before launching a fresh assault next year on the English FA Cup. For captain, Amber Cantwell and vice-captain Eloise Peek, who both play for Norwich City, it has been an especially challenging, yet rewarding year. Kit Circuit, girls' football coach at Northgate, thanked Jamie Thurlow for his help in coaching the Zebras this year. He and all the girls wish him luck with his teaching training in London.