Jock Mitchell Memorial Trophy Final – Match Report

This evening saw the first of our four domestic Cup Finals with the Jock Mitchell Memorial Trophy Final being the fayre on offer.

This game carried great expectations as it pitted the League 2 Divisional Champions, FC Lincs, against the Division 3 Runners up, Eslaforde Rangers. Between them these two teams had scored 188 goals this Season so a 0-0 draw anybody? That was never on the cards!!

Eslaforde Rangers lined up with a 4-4-2 formation. Will Glendinning was in goal playing behind a back four of Ben Glenndinning, Martin Kidd, Connor Lindley, and Dan Conway. The midfield shirts went to Ben Harwood, Andrew Whalen, Lewis Rowland, and Tom Parry, whilst the forward ammunition would be provided by Jordan Parker and Harry Stuart.

FC Lincs shaped up with a 4-3-3 formation. Casey Horgan played in goal behind a back four of Ross Morison, Jack Murphy, Alex Simpson, and Zac Zablockyj. In midfield there was Jack Markham, Bailey Vernon-Higgs, and Bradley Bray, with their forward line being Alex McCalla, Lewis Morison, and Scott Morrison.

Referee, Mr Steve Brumpton, led the two teams out to a warm welcome from a good sized gathering on a warm Spring like evening at a glorious looking LNER Stadium. Mr Brumpton’s Match Officials team comprised of Assistant Referees Mr Phil Dainty, and Mr Jon Renshaw, with Ms Amy Barber taking the role of 4th Official.

Eslaforde Rangers kicked-off attacking the Stacey West end of the ground but within 20 seconds the ball broke in midfield at the other end of the ground as Bailey Vernon-Higgs wriggled through the Eslaforde defence as though it wasn’t there, before seeing a low shot blocked as he seemed destined to score.

That showed the attacking intentions and credentials of FC Lincs as 2 minutes later they took the lead. A ball of quality came into the box from the attacking right and fell to number 9, Scott Morrison. He was not to be denied as he sent a crisp low shot past Will Glenndinning to put the Division Two Champions ahead.

10 minutes later and it was that man Scott Morrison again who doubled his team’s lead, and his own match scoring tally, when he was put clean through on goal. Morrison stayed calm and composed as he put the ball through the legs of keeper Glenndinning, much to the delight of his teammates and those watching and cheering on the FC Lincs boys.

Just 2 minutes later and it was 3-0 to FC Lincs. A superbly struck free kick by number 11, Alex McCalla, nestled in the top corner of the net after clearing the defensively formed wall, a sweet strike from 25 yards out.

With the game just 15 minutes old, and with a 3-0 scoreline, I am sure that there were many in the ground thinking that this was already game over. If they were then they don’t know Eslaforde Rangers, this team would have none of that had it been suggested to them!

Andrew Whalen was put clean through for Eslaforde Rangers in the 33rd minute but he was unable to poke the ball past keeper Casey Horgan, the ball ricocheting off the keeper and a defender before going out for a corner to the team that were now finding their territorial way back into the game.

A minute later saw further proof of the dangers posed by the Sleaford based team when Josh Preston flicked a corner just wide of the post during a good spell for Eslaforde.

That good spell saw Eslaforde reduce the arrears in the 45th minute following some intricate play down the right flank. The ball found its way through to Andrew Whalen just inside the penalty box, who turned sharply to fire a bullet of a shot past Horgan to reduce the arrears to 1-3.

Although this was on the stroke of half time with 1 minute of added time announced, Eslaforde had a good chance a minute later to reduce the arrears further. The ball was played over the top for striker Harry Stuart to run onto but unfortunately for him, and for his Eslaforde team, the ball seemed to plug in the surface as it bounced and with a defender close by Stuart snatched at the shot and the ball went well wide.

That brought to a close an entertaining half which saw FC Lincs enjoy the lion’s share of possession and chances as they took a two goal advantage into the break, doubtless well satisfied with their first half work.

In contrast to the speed with which FC Lincs attacked from the start of the first half, Eslaforde showed that they were far from done when they went straight for FC Lincs from the start of the second half in almost identical fashion. Whatever the halftime team talk was, it certainly seemed to have worked.

Eslaforde were awarded a penalty in the 49th minute after Zac Zablockyj tripped his man inside the penalty box and Mr Brumpton duly pointed to the spot. Zablockyj received the second yellow card of the evening for his efforts, following in the footsteps of Eslaforde’s number 11, Jordan Parker, who had found his way into Mr Brumpton’s notebook following a late tackle in the 48th minute of the game.

Conor Lindley placed the ball on the spot and had little trouble in dispatching the spot kick by sending the keeper the wrong way, to make the score 2-3, much to the delight of the travelling support for the Sleaford based team. If anyone was in doubt, it really was now “game on”.

The game ebbed and flowed and to the great credit of both teams the crowd were treated to some excellent football from both teams.

Scott Morrison found his way into the referee’s notebook on 68 minutes for a late tackle on his Eslaforde opponent, and a minute later Alex McCalla, who looked dangerous all night, sent in a quality cross from the left which went begging with nobody able to connect inside the box.

With players of both teams not surprisingly starting to suffer with cramp from about 70 minutes, both sides attacked with vigor and half chances occurred at both ends.

With no further goals the game ended by a slender one goal advantage to FC Lincs after their blistering start, but the overriding winner on the night was the game itself. Both teams deserve great credit for the spectacle that they put on for those lucky enough to be watching. Well done to all, including the team of Match Officials, who all played their part in a thoroughly enjoyable game of football.

The Trophy was presented by the Vice-Chairman of the League, Mr Phil Hibbitt, who also organised this event with his usual impeccable attention to detail. He was assisted with the presentation by Lincoln City Legend’s Chairman Mr Gavin Gordon, and Imps Legend Mr Terry Cooper. The League extends its thanks and gratitude to both for giving us their time, it is very much appreciated.

The League wishes to thanks Lincoln City Football Club for once again allowing us to use their excellent facilities, as well as thanking everyone that came along and supported their team, thereby supporting the event.

Finally, I must point out that when the Trophy was presented to, and lifted by FC Lincs, I observed every player of Eslaforde Rangers applauding their opponents, but not only that, they did so with smiles on their faces. That is what grassroots football should be like, well done Eslaforde for your contribution to this match, you were a credit to your Club, as FC Lincs were to their Club as well it must be said.

The final word must go to FC Lincs of course. Well done and congratulations for being the 2023/2024 Jock Mitchell Memorial Trophy Winners, along with being the Division 2 Champions.

Ian R. Stephenson

Lincoln & District Sunday Football League / League Secretary.

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