Tonight saw the first of the League’s four domestic Cup Finals played at LNER Stadium, home of Lincoln City FC.
On a gloomy looking evening, which was in complete contrast to the warm afternoon enjoyed yesterday by many at the same venue, the Kelly Read Cup Final was the showpiece for those braving the elements.
AFC Saxilby, established members of the League’s Premier Division, were the defending holders of the Trophy, having won, and retained the Trophy, for each of the past three Seasons. They were however facing stiff opposition in the form of The Ferryboat Inn FC who are having a tremendous Season themselves in Division One.
The Ferryboat Inn went into the game unbeaten in their League, having won sixteen of their seventeen League matches, with one draw being the only occasion where they didn’t taste victory. They have shown similar consistency in the other Cup Competitions, with deep runs into both the Lincolnshire County Football Association County Sunday Cup, and the Ron Eaglen Challenge Trophy. They have also secured another Cup Final appearance next Saturday, when they return to LNER Stadium to attempt to win the Fred Quibell Junior Cup Final.
This tie promised to be one of great interest. The current holders coming up against a team that know only how to win. The prospect was mouth-watering.
The teams were welcomed onto the pitch by a sizable crowd, with the pitch looking like a bowling green at the start of a Season. It was The Ferryboat who got the match under way attacking the Stacey West end of the ground.
Both teams showed their attacking intentions right from the start with Saxilby’s Bradley Barraclough heading wide when he found himself unchallenged from the game’s first corner of the match, this being in the first minute!
The next meaningful action was at the other end when Ferryboat found themselves attacking at pace with two against one. Harry McCarthy received the ball down the right hand channel, drawing the defender before slipping a perfect pass across to strike partner Seb Ligudzinksi. When Ligudzinksi receives the ball with only the goalkeeper to beat from 12 yards out only one thing happens, and it did. 1-0 to The Ferryboat, just two minutes played.
The game settled after the frantic start with both sides looking to attack whenever possible. AFC Saxilby were the next team to strike following an inviting looking corner which was swung in from the attacking right. The ball found the head of Scott Birdsall who stooped to send the ball goalward at speed with the ball taking a deflection off the post before nestling in the net. 1-1 and very much game on.
The evergreen Craig Bridge showed that he still had the skills when he turned his opponent first one way, and then the other, before fizzing a low and dangerous cross across the face of goal on 15 minutes. This time his effort came to nothing.
Back came Ferryboat and Harry McCarthy thundered a shot against the crossbar on 23 minutes with keeper Casey Horgan able to do nothing but watch, as the ball cannoned back into play. Not only that, within 10 seconds AFC Saxilby were back in front when a delicious cross from the left by George Asplin was met with a precision header from number 9 Bradley Barraclough. 2-1 to Saxilby in the most entertaining of matches.
In the 36th minute it was the other goal that got the strength of its crossbar severely tested when a pile driver from George Asplin crashed against the bar with such a thud that it could be heard all around the ground.
The half-time interval arrived without any further goals but with the drizzle falling slowly to make the pitch even slicker, the crowd had been well entertained with the prospect of more to come after the break.
Ferryboat came out for the second period exactly as they finished the first half looking to catch Saxilby with neat passing football in between the two penalty boxes. Elliot Burrell was inches away from equalising for Ferryboat in the 64th minute, when he just failed to reach a cross when he was unmarked and only 6 yards out, the ball flashed past him with only inches to spare from what would have been a certain leveller had any form of contact been made.
Ferryboat did get their equaliser when their Captain, Joe Willey, produced a shot of the highest quality from fully 35 yards out which almost took the net off. What a cracker, and now it was all square at 2 apiece.
The game was ultimately decided in a two minute period around the 75 minute mark. Firstly, Kien Keeley was unfortunate to divert the ball past his own keeper when he was at full stretch attempting to cut out a low cross from the left on 74 minutes. The deflection wrong footed everyone in the Ferryboat defence, including keeper Harry Rember, with the ball ending up in the back of an empty net. 3-2 to AFC Saxilby.
Then, just two minutes later the game was, effectively, all over when Saxilby broke forward and Josh Bowden coolly finished past Rember to give his team a 2 goal advantage for the first time in the game. Saxilby showed all their experience by keeping the ball thereafter, to ensure that Ferryboat couldn’t set the game up for a grandstand finish.
As hard as they tried there was no way back for Ferryboat and it would be Saxilby who would get the last goal of the match. This one came from the penalty spot and was scored by George Asplin after he had been tripped in the box. Referee Simon Swain pointed to the spot, Asplin dusted himself down, and finished from the penalty spot to complete the scoring.
Bradley Barraclough was named Player of the Match by the League’s Management Committee and the game finished in a 5-2 triumph for AFC Saxilby, thus retaining the trophy for the fourth consecutive season. That is some achievement and the Club must be congratulated in this feat.
The presentation was made by Mr John Kennedy, Legend at Lincoln City, having played for the Club on 278 occasions between 1967 and 1974. John was assisted with the presentation by Mr Ron Turner, the League President and Chairperson.
Congratulations go to both teams for serving up an excellent final that was well enjoyed by the excellent crowd that had attended. Well done to everyone!
Next time out it is The Ferryboat Inn v North Scarle FC in the Fred Quibell Junior Cup Final at LNER Stadium on Saturday evening, 13th May 2023, with a 6pm kick off.