Fred Quibell Junior Cup Final 2016/2017

AFC Golden Eagle 2

Birchwood United 1

Sincil Bank greeted both teams with a pleasant sunny evening to an intriguing contest between two sides that play in Division 4 of the League. AFC Golden Eagle were the Champions of the division but their opponents were the first team to defeat them in a League game this season so both sides fancied their chances on the night. The Eagle were looking to win their third piece of silverware this season as they had also won the Jock Mitchell Memorial Trophy in addition to their League crown.

Birchwood got the game under way kicking towards the South Park end of the ground whilst playing in their familiar blue with white stripes. Eagle were forced into a colour change and they were showing off a new strip of gold shirts.

The game was barely 4 minutes old when the opening goal arrived. Eagle Captain Edward Davies sent in a low cross from the right which found the unmarked Jack Higginson alone on the 6 yard line and he needed no further invitation than to score with a simple tap in.

The same combination almost repeated the feat on 14 minutes but this time Higginson was unable to get a clean connection on his shot and the chance went begging.

Birchwood, to their credit, were not fazed by the early goal and as the half wore on they put together some good attacking play of their own and they carved out a couple of half chances that ensured that Eagle keeper Chris Bennett had to remain focused throughout. Jason Simons had a chance on 21 minutes but as he was about to fire goal wards the ball was nicked away from him by a defender at full stretch. Thomas Jenkinson then had a golden opportunity to put the Eagle further ahead on 28 minutes when he, and 2 of his team mates, were all onside as the ball was played over a static defensive line but the tall defender blazed wide with only keeper Jack Thomas to beat.

Despite trailing to that early goal for half an hour Birchwood were well in the game as they played some neat passing football that was pleasing on the eye. They were rewarded in the 33rd minute when Nathan Reid won the ball off an Eagle defender on the edge of the Eagle box and the ball was played out wide to Christopher Ellis. He swung in a deep cross and Reid was able to meet the cross at the far post to hammer home the equaliser that Birchwood’s overall play had deserved. It was certainly game on now. Both sides continued to press but for the remainder of the half Birchwood enjoyed the lion’s share of possession without really troubling keeper Bennett in the Eagle goal.

The second half of the game started a little less frantic than the first half had ended and the first 25 minutes saw both sides enjoy plenty of possession without really troubling the opposition goal keeper. Kallum Omelia, for the Eagle, was enjoying a good game pulling the strings for his side and his tremendous run and effort on 71 minutes went for a corner when perhaps his tenacity and skill deserved a better outcome.

A minute later and a lapse in the Eagle defence saw Birchwood’s Stephen Moore go through on goal but he snatched at his shot when composure would have been the order of the day and his shot missed the target with only keeper Bennett left to beat. A minute later and Higginson had a good opportunity for Eagle but he couldn’t find the target when he was well placed to test the keeper.

With the game heading towards a draw and extra time looking a distinct possibility it was settled in the 85th minute in favour of the team in gold as a long ball to the far post from the right hand side of the pitch found Roy Bescoby on hand to smash the ball into the net before disappearing under a crowd of joyous team mates. The remaining minutes were played out without any real scares for either side and so it was that AFC Golden Eagle collected their third piece of silverware of a memorable season on the hallowed turf of the National League Champions.

Both sides must be congratulated on providing an entertaining game of football with organisation and endeavour being a real credit to both teams. The game was played in a good competitive spirit and referee Mr Ali Hayes and his team must also be congratulated for the way in which they contributed to the spectacle in a firm but none officious manner.

All in all this game was enjoyable to watch and hopefully was enjoyable for all who took part.

Ian Stephenson