Old Mead's Bring Silverware Total To Fifteen
Amateur Football Alliance Senior Cup Final:
Old Meadonians added to their rich seven-year seam of silverware by winning the Amateur Football Alliance Senior Cup for the fourth time in six years at H.S.B.C., Beckenham on Saturday.
This brings their haul of trophies in that period to a sparkling fifteen, fourteen of which have been won during the fruitful six year management of Paul Rumley and Rory Vermeulen who will now retire at the end of the season on a suitably high note and, moreover, even after a below average in the league, still have an outside chance of an eight successive league championship.
For Nottsborough, the almagam of graduates of Nottingham and Loughborough Universities, this was the worst possible result to a match in which they were clear favourites to win and played the more controlled, cohesive and penetrative football, only to have well deserved leads twice cancelled out with victory within reach.
To then lose on penalties was the cruellest cut of all but they will be kicking themselves, or if not, they should be, for they shaded Meads in every department except fire in the belly, will to win and finishing, where they created twice as many chances but converted a quarter of them. Meads’ eventual conversion rate was twice that. It is difficult to see such a multi-talented side as Nottsborough being kept away from trophies for long but they might now have to wait a while for such a gold plated opportunity to lift one of the most coveted trophies in amateur football.
The reasons for this were plainly on display: It was no coincidence that Meads fielded a quartet of players, Kevin Quinn, Dan Salanson, Barry McGuinness and Dwayne Rhone, a major part of the backbone of Meads’ extended run of success over the past few seasons, three of whom had announced their retirement from first team football at the start of the season and who deserve praise for stepping up to the plate in the club’s time of need. These four have the unique and honourable record of playing in all four of Meads’ Senior Cup Final appearances and are now proud owners of four A.F.A. Senior Cup winning medals each, a very just reward.
Also, on average, the Amateur Football Combination team was giving away at least five years per player to the Southern Amateur League champions and at times looked as if they would be overrun. Meads’ once vaunted midfield, through which trying to move the ball could have been likened to dribbling a ping-pong ball through a swamp, was at times positively porous. With the healthy breeze and slight slope, Nottsborough immediately began to work space on the flanks, mostly on their left, and were soon piling reinforcements into the holes they pulled in Meads’ defence.
It was no surprise when after fifteen minutes this route which, throughout the first period, continually provided openings, yielded a cross which was swept in at the far post. In contrast Meads opted for power and pace neither of which can they now fuel fully. Former top scorer Colin Hawkins, after prolonged absence due to long-term injury, is ring rusty, has lost some of his keen cutting edge and relies more on guile, the ability to hold the ball up and feed co-striker Leon Smith, where the real threat lies.
In consequence, early on, Meads had to be content with breakaways one of which almost led to an equaliser on the half hour as for once the Graduates’ left flank was caught over-extended and Dwayne Rhone’s pace put him in on a through ball. He was forced to head for height to defeat Nottsborough’s advancing keeper and the ball was scrambled off the line. If Nottsborough were to put the game beyond doubt it had to be in the first half when they had the lion’s share of possession but they failed to overcome Meads’ last line of defence.
In the second period, with the wind, Meads naturally put the Graduates under greater pressure but found that in turn their defence could be admirably resistant. Now Nottsborough were reduced to breakaways, Ed Glover had a fierce shot charged down and from one of Nottsborough’s breaks Meads’ keeper Shannon Toyne made a show-stopping reflex save from a point blank volley. If the Graduates had scored at this point, one feels it would have wrapped things up but with just ten minutes to go the roller-coaster ride took a new twist: Leon Smith, who minutes earlier had hit the side-netting from a narrow angle after a mazy run along the right hand goal line, repeated the manoeuvre to thread the ball into the near corner.
The first period of extra time was a replica of the first half of the match with Nottsborough opting to take the slope, creating more space down the left and spurning chances at the far post. When they justifiably went back into the lead on seven minutes, replaying their first goal, once more it looked all over, but, with five minutes to go, Pete Lovell saved Meads’ bacon, heading in after a flurry of three efforts had been cleared off the line. In the shoot-out both keepers made saves but one Nottsborough effort missed the target. Meads’ management gave the MoM award to Allistaire McCombe.
The game was played in the best spirit, giving the officials a nice easy ride, an enthusiastic crowd were treated to plenty of thrills and good football and as A.F.A. President Malcolm Perks said in his gracious speech before the presentations, there were no losers. Once more, in a show-case event the A.F.A. and hosts H.S.B.C. are to be commended for ensuring that things ran smoothly. For Meads’ supporters the abiding memory will be the sight of Chairman Derek Barnett blinking with disbelief like a hampster coming out of hibernation, at each of Meads equalisers.
Team: Toyne, Pointer, Salanson, (McGuinness), McCombe, Rhone, (Lovell), Eguae, Hugh Jones, Quinn, (Palmer), Glover, Hawkins, Smith.
April 16, 2008