Norfolk Christian football firsts on cup finals day
The Norfolk Christian Football League cup finals day provided excitement and several firsts, all under a blue sky at The Nest, Horsford, on Saturday April 23.
Last season, St John’s won the adult league in a dramatic final game, this season they won the Bishop Maurice Wood Cup, on a day of two firsts: the first time the final was played at the Nest, and the first time the adult and under 16 final were played at the same time and venue.
A crowd of 100 enjoyed the two games. In the adult final, while St John’s were the firm favourites, with Stalham and St John’s finishing at opposite ends of the league table, they served up a closely contested game belying league positions.
After the league's customary prayer, and early skirmishes, the game came dramatically to light after 15 minutes when Stalham keeper, Michael Mulhall, came out of his area to clear from the St John’s right winger, but only succeeded in bringing him down. The resulting yellow card was saved from being red by being well to the right of the area. From the ensuing free kick Josh Cullington's Cross was nodded into the net by Ethan Campbell to give St John’s the lead.
After half-an-hour Andy Bennet shot just over the bar for St John’s, and five minutes later referee Paul Cracknell turned away St John’s penalty appeals after a tangle between the Stalham keeper and a St John’s forward. After 40 minutes a St John’s shot trickled just past the left hand post while a low Stalham shot was gathered by Alex Starace in the St John’s goal.
The second half began with sustained Stalham pressure, although a St John’s break led to a free kick just outside the Stalham area. Further Stalham efforts led to a shot over the bar and an incisive ball through the middle which the St John’s keeper came out sharply to collect.
More Stalham pressure led to two long throws in a row, the first flicked onto the St John’s post, the second cleared after a goalmouth scramble.
The decisive moment in the game came with 17 minutes to go. This time St John’s used the long throw to devastating effect, Max Hutchings effort being flicked in by Liam Emrick.
That seemed to be that, with Stalham putting some passes together to create a chance for a shot, which went just past the post.
However, three minutes from time, Stalham set up a tense finale when Ieuan Clements poked a long ball over the advancing keeper from the edge of the box. However St John’s held on for a second trophy in two seasons.
Norfolk Christian League Chairman, Jim Green, said: “At the start of the season we did not know if we would complete the league, and we did. We certainly didn't know if we would complete a cup competition, and we did, and it was great to celebrate at the Nest with the Maurice Wood trophy and under 16s together. Our thanks go out to all the managers, secretaries and players who worked together to make this happen.”
Click here to read a report on the Under 16 cup final.
Click here or see below for a full picture gallery. Pictures by Phil Dove.