Today saw the eagerly awaited final of the Kelly Read Cup between serial winners AFC Saxilby and Nettleham Sunday FC.

The teams were led out onto the sumptuous looking pitch on a warm, bordering hot, sunny Spring day by Referee Mr Tim Eagles, supported by Assistant Referees Mr Mark Hartley and Mr Isaac Leach, with Mr Andy Park completing the Match Officials as the 4th Official.

The Dambusters music played whilst the Respect ceremony took place on the pitch.

It was good to see my old friend Craig Bridge lining up for his umpteenth Cup Final at the tender age of 30 (or is it 30 years as a Manager Craig)? Either way Craig demonstrates a commitment and loyalty to his team and indeed to our League which under pins local League football so well done to him.

A sizeable crowd waited in anticipation as Shaun Booth of AFC Saxilby got the game underway, with Saxilby attacking the Stacey West end of the ground.

Both teams zipped the ball around with precision during the opening phases of the match and a slick move between Kallum Omelia, Jack Higginson, and Seb Ligudzinski for Nettleham looked to have opened up the AFC Saxilby defence until the final ball was halted by the attentive Assistant, Mr Leach, who had spotted an offside at the final pass.

On 5 minutes good link up play again between Omelia and Higginson played in Joe Booth for Nettleham but his shot cleared the bar from 20 yards.

On 8 mins Saxilby’s Lateef Edu showed superb skills when he danced past 3 challenges down the left touch line before an excellent tackle from Malcolm Redford put a halt to his progress.

A minute later and it was Nettleham who opened the scoring when Jack Higginson deftly placed a header past keeper Oliver Ford from 8 yards following an inviting cross swung in from the left.

Nettleham Sunday 1-0 AFC Saxilby.

The early Nettleham goal changed little in the pattern of play as both sides looked confident and competent in the manner that they both stroked the ball around on the carpet like surface.

15 minutes in and it was one-a-piece. A raking ball from left to right picked out Daniel Boulton of Saxilby. He took the ball into the box under the challenge of Malcolm Redford before unleashing a clinical low drive across keeper Joe Gilbert with the ball arrowing into the far corner of the goal. It was a precision finish of quality from Mr Boulton.

Nettleham Sunday FC 1-1 AFC Saxilby.

The pace of the game, particularly in such warm conditions, was excellent and referee Mr Eagles was quick to speak early on to those who were slightly late with their tackles before the statutory response of “he was just too quick for me ref” claims were lodged later in the match!

Referee Mr Eagles called for drinks break on 22 minutes which was well received by all of the players I’m sure.

After 25 minutes a misplaced header by a Saxilby  defender let in Seb Lidgudzinski but he shot the wrong side of the far post as far as Nettleham were concerned.

The quality of passing from both teams’ midfield departments was pleasing on the eye and both sides looked to create promising attacks with both defences snuffing out attacks when the play reached their respective areas.

On 38 mins Saxilby looked to have taken the lead when the Nettleham defence collectively appeared to misjudge the situation and the ball fell to Lateef Edu who tested the strength of the woodwork by crashing a powerful shot against the bar from 12 yards. Nettleham, and in particular Joe Gilbert in goal, would have been mighty relieved to see the ball canon out back into play as Gilbert was well beaten by the strike from Edu.

This signalled a passage of play which saw Saxilby in the ascendancy. Their outlet ball setting Edu free down the left flank looked particularly effective.

A brilliant move from Saxilby on 43 minutes saw Daniel Boulton superbly flick the ball through to Edu who shot powerfully at the Nettleham keeper .

A minute later Daniel Boulton was put clean through with only Keeper Gilbert to beat. Beat him he did but his low shot clipped the foot of the left hand post as the ball went out for a goal kick.

2 minutes of added time were added on by the referee but this failed to provide anything significant as the match ended with plenty to savour after the teams first half endeavors.

Half time: Nettleham Sunday FC 1-1 AFC Saxilby.

Joe Booth got the second half under way for Nettleham with neither side making any changes to their first half personnel.

On 47 minutes a piece of quality play from Billy Richardson saw him wriggle clean through for Saxilby but he lacked the composure required and blazed the ball high and wide of the goal.

A minute later and some intricate play involving Daniel Boulton and Lateef Edu saw the ball played neatly to Shaun Booth who fired just over.

Nettleham regained the lead in the 56th minute when the ball found its way through to Seb Ligudzinski inside the box and he did finished clinically by firing a crisp low shot past Oliver Ford to give his Nettleham team the lead for the second time in the match.

Nettleham Sunday FC 2-1 AFC Saxilby.

Joe Booth became the first name to go into referee Eagles’ book on 60 mins when he blocked off Ewen Dobson’s advancing run from defence into midfield.

Nettleham’s Sam Booth was unlucky in the 65th minute when a ball over the top saw him in a one on one with the Saxilby keeper but as he played the ball over the top of the keeper the ball picked up pace on the slick surface and just went out of play the wrong side of the goal as far as the Nettleham forward was concerned.

The quality of Mr Bridge was never more evident than his precision ball played from deep midfield to Lenny Chatonzwa on the right wing for Saxilby in the 68th minute, the move only thwarted by a last ditch tackle from Malcolm Redford.

Nettleham’s Elliott Burrell was having quite a forward influence on the game by now and he played in team mate Sam Booth a minute later but an excellent block sent the ball out for a corner which subsequently came to nothing.

The fourth goal of the game arrived in the 73rd minute and it was to be a second equalising goal for the current trophy holders. Out of nothing a player of Saxilby, with white streaks in his hair, scored a wonder goal finished and created all by himself. He received the ball from 30 yards out, advanced and took aim, and then thundered the ball into the top corner of the net unchallenged giving keeper Gilbert no chance at all. A strike of high quality it must be said. I obviously cannot name the goal scorer as I will never hear the last of it, (Bridgey I believe he may be known as in Saxilby and beyond!).

Nettleham Sunday FC 2-2 AFC Saxilby.

Shaun Booth joined the referee’s discipline book on 77 mins for over exuberance after he objected to a fair challenge from Malcolm Redford.

The pace of Saxilby’s number 15 Lenny Chatonzwa was troubling Nettleham down the right whenever Saxilby were able to supply him.

Chances then became few and far between for the remainder of the 90 minutes and the referee added 5 mins of additional time but with neither side able to register on target the game ended all square with 30 minutes of extra time to be played to see if this game could be sorted without the need for the dreaded penalties!

After 90 minutes: Nettleham Sunday FC 2-2 AFC Saxilby.

Elliott Burrell got the extra time period underway for Nettleham who were playing towards the Stacey West end of the ground.

Saxilby were the first to threaten the scoreline when Shaun Booth exchanged neat passes with Lateef Edu but defender Redford was able to make a last ditch tackle to flick the ball out for a corner as the opportunity looked to have opened up for the impressive Edu.

In a game that was rapidly opening up to an end to end contest, Nettleham threatened next through Higginson and James Cairns. Cairns played Higginson down the left flank and Higginson advanced into the box. With Cairns unmarked in front of goal Higginson chose to shoot and he fired the ball well wide when Cairns looked much better placed.

Saxilby’s Lateef Edu looked to change things on his own when he collected the ball on the half way line in the 99th minute and his foray forward took him past 3  challenges before he over ran the ball at the last minute.

Some fine intricate team play in the 101st minute saw the ball find its way through to Darren Nicholas and his shot from the edge of the box was comfortably dealt with by keeper Gilbert.

Saxilby’s Daniel Boulton had a golden chance during the first minute of 2 additional minutes that were added at the end of the first period of extra time. The impressive Edu squared the ball across to Boulton and with no defender in sight, Boulton, with only keeper Gilbert to beat, shot low straight at the keeper who was able to save comfortably with his legs before the ball was cleared away by a grateful defender after a clear inquest in the Nettleham defence.

Higginson for Nettleham, got the game under way for the second period of extra time.

A couple of early successive corners for Nettleham came to nothing but Nettleham appeared to be in the attacking ascendency during the early part of the second period of extra time.

Elliott Burrell somehow skewed the ball wide when well placed after good work by Luke Hobson down the right had squared the ball across to him 6 yards out.

The wave of Nettleham pressure continued and only a last ditch tackle prevented Higginson from putting  the Nettleham side back in front on 113 minutes when the baall was desperately scrambled out for a corner.

Higginson was not to be denied however a minute later when a left-wing cross was flicked on towards the far post and there was the striker, unmarked, to head home into the net for his second goal of the match with keeper Ford unable to get near him.

Nettleham Sunday FC 3-2 AFC Saxilby.

With nothing further to trouble the score line the game played out with Nettleham happy to protect the gains that they had worked for and it was Nettleham who would secure the trophy after 120 minutes of an enthralling tie.

Congratulations must be given to both teams for their efforts and endeavors putting on an excellent match that will be remembered for some time by all that attended.

AFC Saxilby must also be congratulated for their collective record of wins in the most recent times of this trophy as it is 2017 since they parted company with the trophy. Well done to all that have contributed to that fine record.

A special mention must go to referee Mr Eagles and his team who officiated in an efficient and sensible manner, clearly working with the players, to ensure that everything was kept under control and that everyone could enjoy the match for all the right reasons. Well done to Mr Eagles and his team of Officials.

The trophy and mementos were presented by Imps Legends Mr John Kennedy, and Mr Gavin Gordon. It is always wonderful to see both of these guys who have become firm friends of our League. Thank you both for coming down and presenting for us once again today.

Ian R. Stephenson

Lincoln & District Sunday League – League Secretary

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