Deaf Sports Events26th May 2014

Amidst Penalty Chaos Doncaster take the spoils in EDF Cup Final

The England Deaf Football Challenge Cup Final was contested by Doncaster and Derby Deaf football teams

by Sarah Lawrence

With mainstream football having a host of barriers that prevent and limit opportunities for talented deaf players, deaf football was developed, providing an opportunity for deaf people to participate fully in the sport. With a long and distinguished history, deaf football has stood the test of time. From an outsiders perspective, it could even be argued to be going from strength to strength.

Despite the strong historic position of Deaf football, anything that stands still too long and does not move with the times, risks becoming extinct. Within Deaf football, we are fortunate to have had people who have maintained progress, leading to a position of strength today.

In amongst this modernisation, the England Deaf Football association was formally launched in June 2003 at Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United, during an announcement by Chairperson Andrew Scolding about the creation of a new Deaf Football structure. Agreement was reached to set up new competitions for both men and women, with the first round of the England Deaf Football Men’s Cup taking place in October 2003. Doncaster College Deaf FC won the first competition, beating Fulham Deaf FC in front of a crowd of over 100 people at Ludlow Town FC.

Run successfully since through the work of EDF's officers and a willing team of talented volunteers, the England Deaf Football Challenge Cup is now in its 11th season. Along with its own league, the EDF continues to attract new clubs each year. Since its launch, EDF and the Deaf Football community have seen over 175 Deaf matches being played across the country and now extend into Wales, supporting the only Welsh Deaf Football club, Cardiff City Deaf FC. Other new clubs or newly formed clubs have also joined the EDF set up in recent years, and these include Manchester United Deaf FC and Sunderland Deaf FC.

EDF’s Challenge competition has proved popular because it is the equivalent of the FA Cup for the football league sides. Starting earlier in the year, teams play each other stepping out on their journey to lift the EDF Challenge Cup. For those teams knocked out in Round 1, they still have something to aim for, with all of those teams then entering the EDF Challenge Plate competition. Demonstrating the success of this structure, this year’s Cup and Plate winners would come from the same tie in the first round of the competition, the game having been level at 3 – 3 after full time and needing extra time to split the teams.


This year’s EDF Challenge Cup and Plate competitions were held at Maidstone Town FC in Kent on Saturday 24th May. Boasting a modern ground, Maidstone offers a consistent 3G surface and a football league ethos with facilities and organisation. With fantastic communication from Derek Rowley of the EDF beforehand, we arrived at the ground in plenty of time and cannot fault the welcome by the club’s officials and the EDF team, who were helpful, on-hand and could use BSL to communicate with me.

With the Plate competition played under grey clouds, the sky turned darker and more menacing as the Derby Deaf Football Cup and Doncaster Deaf Trust Football Club arrived for the final. With the Derby team stepping out onto the pitch to begin their warm-up, we were ‘treated’ to a heavy rainstorm as storm clouds moved across the ground. Puddles forming, the groundsman and EDF officials started to test the pitch to see if it was playable and it was good to see the fluorescent yellow dressed groundsman reassuring everyone else that things would be fine. He was right!

The worst of the storm clouds kindly bypassing the ground, puddles started to disappear within minutes of the rain stopping and with the warm-ups finished, we were set to get underway. The teams lined up in front of the spectators to be introduced to guest of honour Robert Taylor and EDF stalwart Stephen Wynne. With referee Emma Capeling blowing her whistle to get the match underway, I was pleased to see her pull a flag from her pocket to enable communication between herself and the players. For the team from Derby, this was their first time in the final and playing against four times winners Doncaster, they might have been expected to show early signs of nerves, but they settled quickly. Early signs indicated this would be a close one!

Less than one minute on the clock a lovely move by Doncaster down the centre of the pitch leading to a good chance on goal which the keeper smothered and the defence cleared hastily. Showing early signs of an end to end game, Derby enjoyed an early attack with the ball finding its way out to the left winger where a heavy sliding challenge from Doncaster's Seon Anderson was rewarded with a free kick. Taken by the Derby skipper Alistair Dalziel, the ball was floated into the box towards the far post where one of the attacking strikers could only get a glancing header, allowing the defender to get the ball out for a corner.

A decent corner was driven into the box with the referee awarding a defensive free kick for a challenge in the box. In the early stages both midfields were trying to secure the upper hand, with the next real chance coming in the twelfth minute when Derby put through a long ball for Darren Sykes to run on to. Pushing hard to put pressure on the defence, the Sykes forced the defender to put the ball out for a corner.

A defensive header from the corner saw the ball come back out to Dalziel who showed some excellent close skills to beat two defenders, only to be brought down as he was about to push into the box. From the resulting free kick, Dalziel took a speculative shot, which hit the wall and went out for a corner. With Derby continuing to show a little more of a threat in the final third of the pitch, the ball was worked out to the left in the 16th minute to their pacey winger Jordan Marsden who put in a good cross to the edge of the box, with the onrushing Dalziel catching the ball with a decent shot on goal bringing a save by Doncaster Captain and goalkeeper John Atkinson.

A minute later a nice move by Doncaster saw the ball being moved down the left hand side to Gavin James who put through a nice ball for one of the strikers to move on to. With a challenge coming in from behind, Derby gave away a free kick about 6 yards out from the centre of the box. Peter Wood took the kick, which the Derby keeper  Bhawandeep Mundair had to tip over the bar for a corner. 

Twenty minutes into the game, Derby had another corner with skipper Dalziel putting in another quality ball into the box. A good challenge for the first header saw the ball lobbing into the air before being hurridly cleared by the Doncaster defence. With 24 mins on the clock Doncaster put a good cross into the box for Andrew Reay to attack, with the defence just managing to knock the ball out for a corner. With the impressive Doncaster midfielder Gavin James taking the corner, a good ball was whipped into the box which the Reay meets well, but can only head the ball into the grateful arms of the keeper.

With Doncaster slowly applying pressure in the game, a good ball into the box saw Anderson up in attack chasing the ball. A heavy challenge came in inside the box, with the defender coming through the Doncaster player in what looked like a clear illegal challenge. With the referee looking for help from Assistant Referee Robins, a shrug of the shoulders in response saw a goal kick awarded, a decision welcomed with dismay by some of the Doncaster players. From the resulting goal kick, and with the wind to the back of the Derby players, Derby immediately launched an attack down the left hand side, a dangerous ball coming into the box for Sean Priestley to attack, with a Doncaster defender having to make a hurried challenge to put the ball out for a corner.

Another quality ball into the box from the corner, saw Derby knock the ball into the net following the first challenge in the air, only for the referee to award a free kick and disallow the goal. With 29 minutes on the clock, Derby's Dalziel again put in an excellent delivery into the box, which Sykes attacked, winning the header, only to see his strike hit the bar and go over for a goal kick. A couple of minutes later, Doncaster re-assert themselves in the game with Reay holding the ball up for his team mates to overlap him down the wings, only for the resulting cross to drift over the bar. Moments later the ball finds its way to Doncaster's Gavin James out on the right. He attacked the defender before pulling the ball onto his left for a shot which drifts just wide of the left hand post.

39 minutes in, Derby mount another attack down their left hand side with a ball put through to the quick and lively Sykes who put in a lovely ball across the defensive box, but there were no Derby players attacking the box looking to get on to the end of it. Minutes later Doncaster show their ability to turn defence into attack, with Atkinson kicking the ball up to Reay, who turns and tries an early shot which is partly blocked by Christopher Naylor and loops over the bar. With half time coming soon afterwards, the supporters had seen an entertaining hard fought first half, during which both teams enjoyed some decent half chances and the result still hard to predict.

The second half under way, Doncaster now had the strong breeze at their backs. Coming out of the blocks quickly, Doncaster enjoy the first attack of the half with the impressive Reay putting the ball out to James on the wing who puts a decent box into the box which the Derby defence just managed to clear. Showing that this was not going to be a wide sided half, Derby mount their own attack shortly afterwards with their skipper constantly being a willing outlet drifting out into wide areas on the left and right. With his sweet right foot, he put in amother dangerous ball into the box which was just behind the advancing Jordan Marsden who tried a bicycle kick, connecting well but shooting just wide of the right hand post.

Minutes later, Doncaster conceded a free kick 35 yards out, inviting Dalziel to put another threatening ball into the box. Put in at pace, the ball was heading just under the bar, forcing Atkinson to tip the ball over the bar. From the resulting corner Sykes again attacked the ball in the box, again winning the header, but just failing to steer the ball under the bar.

Seven minutes into the half, Doncaster attacked down the right through their winger Joe Norton who provided width down his wing all through the game, his cross met well by Reay who connected well, only for the defender to block his attempt at goal. Good defending! With an hour played, Doncaster's Reay was fed the ball out on the left hand side and with tension rising in the game, the goalkeeper and right back got in a tangle trying to clear the ball, resulting in a hurried clearance out for a corner.

With the windy conditions starting to have an influence in the game, Doncaster enjoyed their first sustained period of pressure in the game with several half chances following in close succession, a lovely ball through to Reay from Norton looking as though it will open the scoring, only for the striker to be adjudged to be off-side.

Showing great spirit, Derby continued to launch their own attacks, with the ball being put out for a corner. A decent ball into the box was headed out strongly by the Doncaster defence toward the centre circle, where the ball was passed out to the left for Reay to run on to. Beating a diving challenge to the ball, he skipped past the challenge into the left hand side of the box. Shaping as though to take a shot, Reay cooly passed the ball to the on-rushing Norton who was presented with a simple tap in to give Doncaster a 1 – 0 lead.

To their credit, Derby did not let their heads drop, continuing to push forward looking for an equaliser. With Sykes let lose down the left, he put in a nice through ball for Dalziel to run onto who attempted to cross into the box, only to see it blocked by excellent defending. From the resulting corner, Derby could have pulled one back, but Sean Priestley, leaping to meet the corner, headed the ball down to the ground, the ball bouncing up and over the bar.

With the wind now behind the talented Doncaster keeper John Atkinson, goal kicks continued to put pressure on the Derby defence with the ball seeming to find Reay with regularity. From one such challenge, Derby gave away a free kick 10 yards out, with James and Reay standing over the free kick. It was James who struck the kick, clearing the 4-man wall but shooting straight into the arms of the keeper.

Derby were far from beaten in the game going into the final quarter and another decent move down the right flank, with Jeremy Millenstead again spreading the ball wide to Marsden, only for the winger to be flagged off-side. 71 minutes into the game, the ball was played forward to the Dalziel again, the skipper doing well to beat his man and pass into the box to James, who did well to get a shot away drawing another fine save from Atkinson low down to his right hand side. Moments later, Derby again attacked down their left through Dalziel, who beat the right back and pushed on towards the penalty area. Being closed down by the impressive Anderson, his attempted cross was blocked by the Doncaster defender resulting in fervent claims for hand-ball. Using bad language in his appeal, Dalziel found his name being recorded in the referee’s book, although the pernicious use of the same language by the referee seemed a little unnecessary.

Maintaining their attacking intent, Derby attacked again down the left with a ball coming into the box for Christopher Naylor to meet, only for the shot to miss the goal to the right hand side. Further attacks followed with Sykes and Marsden in particular attacking good crosses into the boxes, only for Atkinson to keep them out or the ball to bounce to safety after hitting the bar.

With tension rising in the dying embers of the game, and Doncaster trying to play a high line in defence, another good ball up to Sykes drew a heavy challenge from Anderson, giving away a free kick just inside the Doncaster half. The resulting free kick was again floated beautifully into the box where Reay and then Marsden challenged in the air. With the ball lose in the penalty area, Derby's Jan Creswell tried to get to the ball around Anderson, only for the defender to use his strength to hold him off. To the surprise of most people at the ground, Assistant Referee Robins was holding his flag across his chest indicating a penalty kick.

‚ÄčTense moments followed, with gamesmanship being used by both sides and the officials struggling to maintain order. With the ball finally on the right spot and the goalkeeper on his line, Dalziel finally took the penalty shooting to the bottom left corner of the goal, which keeper Atkinson did supremely well to save. Swamped by his jubilant teammates, realisation kicked in that Assistant Referee Robins was indicating an infringement had occurred and the penalty should be re-taken. Bemused, some of the Doncaster team tried to challenge the decision by asking Robins to review video footage of the game. Taking an age to bring order, Derby were about to use a different player to take the penalty when a steward pointed that out to the officials, with the referee then demanding amidst further protest, that the original penalty taker had to take the kick.

Amongst the tension and chaos, when Dalziel subsequently re-took the kick, he stuttered on his run-up and pulled the ball tamely wide of the left upright, maintaining Doncaster’s lead in the game.

Moments later the referee blew her whistle to mark the end of the game, Doncaster winning the Cup for the 5th time in a tense and well fought contest. Derby had acquitted themselves well during the game and will undoubtedly benefit from their experience. Amidst jubilant scenes, John Atkinson received the Cup from Robert Taylor to joyous scenes from his team mates. In a tough decision, Robert Taylor awarded the Man of the Match Award to Seon Anderson for a strong defensive display.

Our compliments go to the Doncaster team for winning the Cup, but also to Derby for putting up such a spirited contest. Credit must also go to the organisers from England Deaf Football for putting on such a fantastic day and to Maidstone United Football Club for being such warm hosts and managing the event so expertly.

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Sport / Deaf Sports Events

26th May 2014