Birds Sports Benevolent Cup final
Stoke Ferry 2 Tacolneston 1 (AET)
Stoke Ferry weathered an early storm to claim the cup at Aldiss Park in the second of the Crown Fire Central & South Norfolk League end of season cup finals last night (Wednesday), writes Ed Colman.
Despite defeat, Tacolneston were quickest out of the traps with Calvin Butler providing an early defensive headache for their West-Norfolk opponents, after showing good strength and pace in the early stages, despite his shots being easily managed by Stoke Ferry keeper Matthew Harrison.
After being camped in their own half for the opening minutes, Stoke Ferry creating their first chance of the night after 10 minutes, with Matthew Kenney holding the ball up well before finding Mark Smith in a crowded penalty area, who pulled back to Matt Herring whose shot sailed wide.
Stoke Ferry remained dangerous with a flurry of counter attacks, however Tacolneston keeper Chris Sparkes wasn’t needed for anything more than routine saves.
Tacolneston remained the most threatening of the two sides with Buddy Reeve squandering a glorious opportunity to put his side ahead, after finding himself one on one with Harrison just 10 yards out.
Stoke Ferry responded well with Herring latching on to Smith’s through ball before out running the Tacolneston defence but his effort was denied by a great diving save by Sparkes.
Tacolneston’s Paul Anderson went closer still to breaking the deadlock after his glancing header skimmed the cross bar but just minutes later Stoke Ferry punished their opponents for wasteful finishing when Smith finished off from inside the penalty area, amid offside protests, to cap a great team move on the verge of half-time.
Stoke Ferry picked up where they left off second half and Amarpal Khattra’s long range effort almost doubled his side’s lead but his effort sailed just over the cross bar. Both Smith and Kenney then went close to creating a two goal cushion, but their efforts were blocked by some strong Tacolneston defending.
With time running out a flurry of Tacolneston subs gave them a much needed new lease of life, with Jamie Springall forcing Harrison in action after an excellent curling strike from a testing angle.
Ryan Stanford then missed the best opportunity of the night to pull Tacolneston level, after losing his footing unmarked at the far post, allowing Darren Ford’s cross the sail away for a goal kick.
Stoke Ferry were living dangerously throughout a lengthy period of added time and in the 96th minute Benny Mann headed in Tacolneston’s equaliser, taking the game to extra-time.
Both sides were wearing their hearts on their sleeves in extra-time, with Luke Morgan having the best chance of the first half, as he struck the cross bar with his powerful strike from 30 yards out.
With time running out and penalties looking likely Tom Doy’s cross was palmed away by Chris Sparkes and the ball fell to the feet of Matthew Kenney who calmly slotted home to ensure that Stoke Ferry would lift the Benevolent Cup after a characterful team display.
Next week’s final sees Marham take on Mulbarton at Aldiss Park, kick off 7.30pm.
Stoke Ferry: Harrison, Kenney, Clark, Taylor Doy, Tom Doy, Beard, Herring, Smith, Carter, Coe, Khattra. Subs: Barrow, Green, Howard.
Tacolneston: Sparkes, Rose, Reid, Preston, Anderson, Mann, Springall, Butler, Reeve, Stanforth, Oakley. Subs: Morgan, Moore, Ford.
Referee: Mr. C. Bear. MOTM: Matthew Kenney (Stoke Ferry).