Published: 05:00, 11 April 2022
Danson Sports produced a polished team display to win the Kent Merit Under-16 girls cup final at the Gallagher Stadium on Sunday.
Goals in either half from Quiana Dillion-Bent and Coco Cardona were enough to overcome a Maidstone team playing on their home ground.
It was no less than Danson deserved. A well-drilled team, with each player clearly knowing their role in the side, and a touch of quality when it mattered most, they never looked like freezing on the big stage.
“I’m lost for words,” said beaming Danson boss Dave Kelly. “We ran our socks off and played with our hearts on our sleeves.
“We put on a really dominant performance, how football is meant to be played and I’m a really proud manager.
“I started this team at under-13s, we started in Division 3 and have worked our way up. This shows how far we have come.”
Danson delivered plenty of early pressure but just when it looked like Maidstone were starting to get a foothold in the game, the opening goal arrived in the 12th minute.
Impressive midfield general Kara Penwarden-Bland won the ball for Danson and set up Dillion-Bent, who almost effortlessly glided beyond three Maidstone defenders before slotting home beyond keeper Tiana Sinnott.
“It was a special goal,” reflected boss Kelly. “When she first started playing for us, she was really raw and was like a street footballer.
“To have honed her skills and then show composure on the ball like that is absolutely brilliant.”
Maidstone had a chance to equalise almost immediately but Ella Roper saw her 20-yard free-kick blocked by the defensive wall.
Chances were at a premium although Danson enjoyed the better of both possession and territory. Nazareth Godspower fed Dillion-Bent, whose shot lacked power, while the striker then turned her marker on halfway and strode forward to force Sinnott into an excellent save.
Danson added a second just three minutes into the second half. Ruby Dythe’s free-kick into the area was both difficult to defend and inviting to attack in equal measure, presenting Cardona with a close-range finish that she wasn’t going to turn down.
Maidstone kept plugging away to their credit and both Macey Hall and Grace Gay were denied by keeper Lola Hearn, who looked accomplished in everything asked of her.
But, along the nifty footwork of Dillion-Bent, perhaps the stars of the show were the two players in front of the keeper - centre-backs Melissa Jones and Dythe. The former, in particular, read the game brilliantly, rarely gave possession away and thwarted Maidstone’s biggest attacking threat - Roper - on many occasions.
Maidstone: Tiana Sinnott, Evelyn Bryant, Lois Jenkinson, Kady Wilkinson, Georgia Drewett, Emma Healey, Ella Roper, Grace Gay, Macey Hall, Anya Carroll, Lexie Conway-James, Amy Conner, Florence Green-Cronin.
Danson: Lola Hearn, Ella Venabals, Melissa Jones, Ruby Dythe, Cassidy Burns, Nazareth Godspower, Kara Penwarden-Bland, Quiana Dillion-Bent, Kay Adibiji, Coco Cardona, Queenie Baron, Molly Murihead, Lilly-Sue Beaney, Evie Wallis.
Referee: Zoe Wright-Cook.