The Fred Quibell Junior Cup Final was the fayre on offer at the LNER Stadium on Thursday 12th May, this being the third of the League’s four domestic Cup Finals on offer.
A sizable crowd greeted St Helens FC and Witham FC onto the pitch for an intriguing contest between the Division One champions (St Helens), and the team that had finished 14 places below them in the pyramid table, having finished fifth in Division Two.
Unlike the previous two League finals played within the last week, this one started somewhat more measured with both teams working each other out. The early exchanges saw both teams enjoy plenty of possession without either being able to really create anything significant in front of goal. That was until 16th minute when St Helens took the lead from a corner.
Aaron Smith was the creator, having already served notice of his skill from the corner situation on a couple of earlier occasions, he put in a peach of a cross that was headed home superbly by Edward Jones who was unmarked at the near post, giving Witham keeper Jack Wilson no chance at all.
St Helens looked dangerous from most of their corners, indeed another one was frantically hacked off the line by a defender in the 31st minute when Saints thought they had doubled their lead.
Despite enjoying some good possession and looking neat in their build up play, Witham hadn’t really created much in the game until the 36th minute when Dan Wilson changed things after he was slipped through from a nicely weighted pass. He produced a cool finish, low into the net, to square the game at 1-1.
2 minutes later Daniel Durkin had the perfect opportunity to put St Helens back in front after he wriggled through the Witham defence but Witham keeper Jack Wilson had other ideas and produced a very good save to deny the forward, ensuring that both teams went into the break with the scores level at one apiece.
The second half was only 6 minutes old when James Wilson gave St Helens the lead for the second time in the match with a well taken free kick from just outside the box.
Daniel Dukin was almost celebrating for St Helens on 57 minutes when his goal bound shot cannoned back off the post and rebounded to safety.
At this stage the game ebbed and flowed, and the caution showed by both teams in the first half in their opposition final thirds, seemed to have evaporated as both teams appeared to look much more dangerous from an attacking point of view.
With 57 minutes on the clock it was all square again at 2-2 thanks to a deft header from Reece Parker after an inviting free kick was swung into the box by Kian Durant.
After the hour mark both sides started to use their substitute allocation as fatigue and knocks understandably started to creep in. One such substitution, by St Helens, seemed to be very astute as number 2, Alex Humberstone, replaced Reece Parker on 65 minutes. Almost immediately after his introduction Humberstone flashed a half volley goalwards which keeper Jack Wilson did well to parry as St Helens attempted to go up a gear to try to get their noses in front for a third time in the match.
They did that, courtesy of Alex Humberstone, with just 15 minutes remaining. Some enterprising forward play produced a real quality move which was finished off by Alex Humberstone from the edge of the 6 yard box with some of the Witham defenders appealing for an offside flag which never arrived.
The last 15 minutes saw both sides create, and in fairness waste, some good chances but the unrelated Wilsons in each goal, Jack for Witham, and Eddie for St Helens, ensured that neither goal was breached again.
There were 4 minutes of added time at the end of the game and in the very last minute Dec Searle was played through one on one with only Eddie Wilson to beat in the St Helens goal but with more time on his hands than he perhaps realised he blazed his shot high wide and handsome before sinking to his knees to hear the Referee, Amy Barber, blast on her whistle for the last time in the evening to bring an entertaining final to an end. A tight affair at the end with St Helens just edging the scoring by 3 goals to 2.
The presentations were carried out by Mr Steven White (on behalf of the League Sponsors – White Mortgages Ltd) and Gavin Gordon a former Lincoln City player and Red Imps Legend.
The League sends its congratulations to St Helens FC as the winners of the Competition, and to Witham FC for becoming the runners up in the Competition this Season. Thank you to everyone who attended, we hope you enjoyed the occasion.
Thank you too to our Cup sponsors, Lincoln City Football Club, who allowed us to use their magnificent facilities again, and for their continued support of our League after a difficult two years without being able to play Cup Finals due to the pandemic.