Friday 2nd May 2014 – Hunts FA Senior Challenge Cup Final
Venue : Cozy Stadium, St Neots
St Neots Town 2 St Ives Town 0
Attendance : 563
Man of the match : Barney McLaughlin (St Ives Town)
Holders of the trophy St Neots rounded off their successful 2013/14 season as they picked up the Huntingdonshire Senior Cup for the 37th time beating neighbours St Ives by two goals to nil. It was the club’s second senior trophy of the season both won with victories in front of their own noisy supporters. For the appreciative crowd of 563 the two most senior sides in the County served up a feast of attractive attacking football that was suitable testament to their status as Southern League sides. Although St Neots had the larger share of both possession and openings St Ives were never overwhelmed and more clinical finishing when they created their chances would have resulted in a closer contest. The game was played at a fast pace with a good competitive battle in the midfield area but where St Neots shaded the game was the solidity of their back four and in particular the central defensive partnership of skipper Gavin Hoyte and Ryan Frater who gave nothing away in the air where St Ives have been most prolific in their debut season at Step Four. Both goalkeepers played well and seemed to be in the game for most of the match but two clinical finishes by Shane Tolley and Lewis Hilliard won the trophy for the home side.
St Neots began very confidently and could have been three goals up in the first ten minutes. After four minutes Jay Davies split the St Ives defence to release Matt Nolan on the right and his shot beat Barney McLaughlin but rebounded from the crossbar and in the same attack Shane Tolley won the ball to loop a shot over the keeper but Jason King cleared off the line. Five minutes later Lewis Hilliard was sent clear by Nolan but he dragged his low shot wide when he should have at least tested the keeper. Having weathered the early storm St Ives saw David Cobb run at the defence but shoot wide and then they won three corners in quick succession well dealt with by the tall St Neots defenders. Lorenzo Ferrari was twice brought down in full flight – the second offence earning Jason King a booking and from the resultant free kick Jay Davies sent his short the wrong side of a post. After 19 minutes a careless mistake by Mason Spence presented Avelino Vieira with a golden opportunity to give St Ives the lead but the defender then made suitable amends by getting back to block the narrow angled shot. Nathan Abbey saved well from a lengthy effort by Lee Ellison and at the other end McLaughlin saved a Ben Farrell shot at the second attempt and seven minutes before the break Hilliard saw a rising half volley touched over the bar by the keeper. The first half ended with Spence joining the attack to shoot over and defender Arthur Lee seeing his header from Hilliard’s corner pushed around a post and the sides went to their half time break with the match still at stalemate.
‘More of the same but with better finishing’ would have been the advice given to St Neots and just three minutes after the restart Hilliard swung in a free kick from the left and skipper Gavin Hoyte rose to head the ball down for Shane Tolley to score from close range – his nineteenth goal in just sixteen starts since rejoining the club in December. St Ives then seemed to move up a gear with Dan Bannister bringing a save from Abbey and Vieira shooting wildly over the bar when well placed. After 57 minutes Dan Newman squandered St Ives best chance of the match when unmarked twelve yards from goal he sent a tame header over the bar and St Ives continued to look lively on the break but St Neots were happy to contain the best efforts of their opponents. Will Fordham sent a weak free kick wide and St Neots saw Tolley head over the bar. The clinching goal came eight minutes from time when substitute Ed Adjei on for Ferrari beat his marker to loop a cross over defenders and keeper to the far post when the unmarked Lewis Hilliard netted with a rare header. With three minutes remaining Tom Meecham did get free on the bye line but Abbey did well to get down to block his shot and that was St Ives’ best chance of finishing with a consolation goal which they probably deserved.
St Neots: Abbey, Spence, Lee, Farrell, Frater, Hoyte, Hilliard, Davies, Nolan, Tolley, Ferrari
Subs: Adjei (for Ferrari 62 mins), Ford (for Nolan 77 mins), Wilson (for Davies 90 mins), Thomas and Swan.
Cards: Frater (Y – 84)
Goals: Tolley (48 mins), Hilliard (82 mins)
St Ives: McLaughlin, King, Alsop, Newman, Fordham, Lambert, Cobb, Ellison, Vieira, Gibbs. Bannister
Subs: Hancock (for King 20 mins), Meecham (for Vieira 81 mins), Roberts (for Cobb 85 mins), Everdell and Bennion.
Cards: King (Y – 17), Fordham (Y – 37)
Referee: Richard Hart (St Ives)