The 2021/2022 Kelly Read Cup Final between AFC Saxilby and HBW United was played at LNER Stadium on Tuesday 10th May 2022 on a pitch that can only be described as looking like a world class bowling green. It has to be any non-League player’s dream of playing on a surface looking like that.

AFC Saxilby, who finished fourth in the Premier Division of the League, were up against a side who had enjoyed League success of their own this Season having finished third in Division Two, some seventeen places behind their opponents. Due to the League standing differences there were many who made the side from Saxilby firm favorites, but nobody could have predicted what was to happen in the first minute of the game.

HBW United kicked off attacking the South Park end of the ground. The ball was played down the right hand side and when a cross came in the ball went over the heads of their forwards and bounced up. The Saxilby defence showed hesitation before a defender, facing his own goal, tried to head the ball out of play to clear the danger. He succeeded only in beating his own goalkeeper,Craig Rhodes, only to see the ball hit the crossbar and rebound back into play. HBW volleyed the rebound goalwards from six yards out and the ball was blocked on the line before a second follow up was brilliantly cleared from the line for a second occasion before the danger was finally cleared. Saxilby had escaped with the ball crashing against their crossbar,and two glorious chances being cleared off their goal line, all within the first minute of the match and without their goalkeeper even touching the ball!

With the crowd still talking about the blistering start to the game made by HBW, the HBW back line were caught square on 3 minutes when a nicely weighted pass found Bradley Barraclough clean through with just David Waplington in the HBW goal to beat. The forward took the ball nicely in his stride and just when it seemed that he was certain to score Waplington got down smartly to push the ball out for a corner, keeping his side all square with still only 3 minutes on the clock.

The game started to settle and both sides had chances. Arguably it was HBW who created the better chances during the first 20 minutes but both sides continued to press for that all important first goal. It was to arrive in the 21st minute and it went the way of AFC Saxilby, when Bradley Barraclough slotted home following some smart intricate footwork in the box by Joe Ayres which gave him the chance. 1-0 to Saxilby.

In the 25th minute HBW hit the bar for a second time, again from a header by their fullback, with the follow up shot being cleared off the line for a third time in the game with keeper Rhodes once again beaten.

Saxilby added their second goal in the 37th minute when Joe Ayres was played through with the HBW defence looking a little square again. Ayres kept his cool before lobbing the ball over keeper Waplington and into the empty net, despite the keeper getting a hand to it as it was played over him. 2-0.

The half time whistle sounded and the illuminated scoreboard behind the Stacey-West stand showing AFC Saxilby 2 HBW United 0. What it did not show was the fact that the Saxilby goalkeeper had been beaten 5 times with 2 coming back off the cross bar and 3 being kicked off the line. As the saying goes “It’s a funny old game”!

The second half of the game was quite understandably a more measured game but it still ebbed and flowed with both teams playing neat and attractive football. Both teams understandably used their substitute allocations regularly which gave the players chance to catch their breath from a game that had been played at a scintillating pace on such a warm evening.

Despite the all action game the teams, and the crowd, had to wait until the 90th minute for the next goal and this one went th way of HBW when James Broughton put the ball into the top corner with a strike of real quality from just inside the box. With the game at 2-1, now with just time to be added by referee Mr Park, was this to be “game on” or just a consolation for HBW?

The answer to that came from Craig Bridge in the 3rd minute of time added on when he received the ball outside the penalty box and cut inside from the left before drilling the ball low past the keeper to wrap up proceedings for his team. 3-1.

So the game finished 3-1 in the record books but the entire evening belonged to both teams who put on a superb display of bright attacking football which was played in a tremendous spirit, one which was a fantastic tribute to both Clubs and a game which showed Sunday League football in its best form.

The League sends its congratulations to AFC Saxilby as the winners of the Competition, and to HBW United 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 facilities which are amazing and a real experience for everyone fortunate enough to have had that opportunity and experience.

Ian Stephenson. League Secretary