ANDY Cox, manager of Forest Glade Under 11s believes his team’s tortuous journey to the final of the Under 11 Cup – the Roy Chaplin Memorial Cup – was responsible for their success on Sunday.

Having to beat Premier League side Ashingdon, then Basildon Wanderers, Premier side Ecko Whitecaps plus Southend Manor in the semi-final blooded the boys for the Southend and District Junior League final at Roots Hall.

Cox rates the match against the Whitecaps as the hardest en route for the side which has been together since they were five.

“Against the Whitecaps we went 2-1 down with just five minutes to play. But the lads did not give up and came back to equalise before winning in extra time.”

Cox manages alongside assistant Darren Crowley and coach Craig Hones. Cox said: “Last year at under 10s league level we won the League Cup, but since then we have stepped up to 11-a-side.”

Three of the four goals in the 4-2 victory came from the Unwin brothers. George Unwin netted twice while his twin Jack ruffled the netting once. The final goal came from top scorer Jordon Collier.

Cox said: “There is plenty of quality in this side – and they know how to play together.

“I’d also like to sing the praises of our keeper, George Hills, who pulled off an incredible save on Sunday which definitely kept us ahead. They are big goals at Roots Hall and he managed to tip over a ball which was definitely going in.”

“Playing at Roots Hall is a hugebig thing for youngsters and at Southend United they really treat the boys like professionals. That mean so much to the lads.”

Rayleigh Boys U16s boss Geoff Middleton – assisted by Richard Amoroso – praised all three off the goals which allowed his side to beat Valley Colts 3-1. Jake McGrath rounded the keeper after a great piece of flowing play and George Darby’s best was an unstoppable left foot strike.