Blessed Trinity are hoping to become the first Burnley school to reach the English Schools’ Cup Final in 21 years after earning a place in the last four with a 5-2 victory over St Cuthbert’s of Rochdale.
The last side to get to the final, back in 1992, were St Theodore’s, which amalgamated with St Hilda’s to form Blessed Trinity in 2006.
Having beaten allcomers from the north of England in the previous seven rounds – scoring 36 goals along the way and only conceding six – Trinity took on former finalists St Cuthbert’s, who started strongly.
In the opening minutes, St Cuthbert’s piled on the pressure, before, in the eighth minute, against the run of play, a long ball saw Connor Barrow chest the ball down for Lewis Mansell to run onto and slot home neatly.
After the goal, Cuthbert’s continued to press in search of an equaliser, leaving them vulnerable to the pace and power of the Blessed Trinity counter attack.
This was shown when a Cuthbert’s corner was punched clear, and within seconds the ball was in the back of the net, with Willem Tomlinson and Jake Townsend combining well, allowing the former to finish.
The third goal came after another great counter attacking move involving Barrow and Mansell.
Barrow ran forward with the ball and played a superb through ball to Mansell, who went clear on goal and slipped the ball under the keeper.
In the later stages of the first half Blessed became dominant in possession and relaxed on the ball, with early nerves settled by the goals.
And they added a fourth when the ball fell out to Brandon Ludlum on the left hand side, and he played an inch-perfect chip through to Mansell, who timed his run to perfection and calmly slotted past the keeper to complete his hat-trick.
After the break, Cuthbert’s came out fighting, needing an early goal.
But their hopes were flattened as Jake Townsend played in Tomlinson, who drove the ball low and hard past the keeper to make it 5-0.
Trinity took their foot off the gas for the last 10 minutes and made a number of substitutions, and, to their credit, Cuthbert’s kept pushing numbers forward and did manage to score two late goals - a great strike from 18 yards into the top corner, and ta free kick in the last seconds of the match, which took a double deflection, going in off Tom Comer, leaving Kean Craig no chance.
Blessed Trinity now play Cardinal Heenan or Thomas Telford for a place in the final at Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.
The team have won the Lancashire Cup for the last two years and got through to the last 16 in the English Schools’ Cup last year.
They had earmarked a place in the quarter-finals at least this year, so have already gone one better and hope to go all the way.
The side boast two academy players - captain Tomlinson and Mansell, who are both at Blackburn.
Tomlinson has scored 14 goals in the competition this year and Mansell 13.
Ten of the team attend Elite Mark Academy - a local football academy for aspiring footballers based in Burnley.