Stanway Pegasus FC vs AFC Sudbury ‘A’ in Tommy Thompson Cup Final…
By Danny Laws
The A Team Win First of 3 Cup Finals
AFC Sudbury ‘A’ Starting XI:-
Venue: Home of Stanway Rovers -
James Parks (referee)
Richard Oakes (linesman)
Daniel Webb (linesman)
Benjamin Ridge (4th official)
Stanway Pegasus FC 1 - 2 AFC Sudbury ‘A’
Tommy Thompson Triumph !
AFC Sudbury’s ‘A’ team have reached 3 cup finals in the 2018/19 season, with the first coming in the Tommy Thompson Cup. Their opponents were a very well respected Stanway Pegasus side who had been crowned champions of the Essex & Suffolk Border League Division 2 several weeks before the fixture. Sudbury are likely to finish as runners up, behind the already-crowned champions, with two extremely well contested matches played between the teams earlier in the season. Both games finished 4-2, with Pegasus winning in their home fixture and AFC victorious on their own turf. If the excitement that these matches delivered could be translated into the final, all spectators were in for a truly terrific tie !
A fantastic turnout saw a healthy crowd attend the big game, with a fairly equal following for both sides. The anticipation for the referee’s first whistle began to grow by the minute as an eager audience, two groups of enthused players and some desirous and hopeful coaches waited for kick off. The warm ups were fulfilling, the team talks were motivating and the tunnel was filled with an exhilarating yet slightly anxious atmosphere. This combination of factors could only mean that the teams were ready and prepared, as was the referee... so at 7.45 on Wednesday the 24th of April, the signal for the commencement of the Tommy Thompson Cup Final was given.
The opening encounters were as frantic as one’s mind can imagine. The pitch and arena were filled with energy, an energy that lead to an electrifying pace flow through the game. Neither side were willing to concede themselves early on, and whilst Stanway Pegasus probably edged the first few moments, there were no clear cut chances formulated. The referee’s watch continued to tick and the pace remained relentless. The younger and less experienced AFC Sudbury team began to grow into the game as they gained territory in Pegasus’ half of the field. Both teams could not take advantage of a couple of respective set pieces, as the first few signs suggested that an incredibly tight game of football was on the horizon.
Alas, the deadlock would be broken shortly after these signs began to emerge. The youthful Sudbury ‘A’ team were the team to score first as they capitalised on a rather abortive bit of Stanway defending. As the designated home team (Stanway Pegasus FC) complained about the referee’s decision to award AFC a throw-in deep in their half, frontman Jack Renwick used his initiative to take a quick throw. Ethan Mayhew was his target, as he picked him out wonderfully. Mayhew took one touch to assess his options, before spotting the surging run of fellow midfielder Joe Osborn to his right. He played the ball into Osborn’s path who instinctively whipped the ball beyond the keeper towards the far post. A brilliant finish from just inside the penalty area, which sparked some elated celebrations as the Sudbury team huddled in the far corner of the stadium.
The assigned away team (AFC Sudbury ‘A’) were relieved and delighted with the lead, as this goal put them in pole position to claim the trophy. Arguably more importantly, the goal settled the nerves and the frantic beginning to the match, up to that point. In the aftermath of the opening goal, the Stanway players became fairly agitated. They continued to complain to the referee and this lack of focus may have been the reason that they had conceded the second.
Within 5 to 10 minutes of the first goal, Sudbury added that key second goal. After battling to hold onto the ball, Freddie King slid the ball through to find another purposeful Joe Osborn run. This time his effort was to be denied by a fine piece of goalkeeping. Thankfully, for AFC the ball fell into the path of the creator of the original opportunity, as King slotted the ball home from approximately 7 yards out. The celebrations of the second goal matched the jubilance of the first. The team demonstrated their togetherness by indulging in the moment as a unit, leaving their opponents scratching their heads as to how the previous 10 minutes had evaded them.
Pegasus needed to react positively, and the last exchanges of the first half saw them do exactly that, pushing for a goal of their own. They really piled on the pressure and were perhaps unlucky not to pull one back. Goalkeeper Sam Wright, centre backs Reece Langridge and Matt Wooldridge and skipper Lewis O’Malley were marvellous in their attempts to deny their opposition. This was vital in ensuring that Sudbury’s ‘A’ team could get into the interval with a clean sheet and a two goal advantage.
The half way mark would have seen some very contrasting messages delivered in each dressing room. AFC Sudbury knew that a disciplined defensive display would earn them the trophy, whereas Stanway Pegasus would have been intent on recreating some of their league title-winning form in order to cancel out the deficit. So, after a much-needed regroup for both sides, the second half was soon underway...
The final 45 minutes started in a remarkably similar fashion to the first 45. The electrifying pace was replicated from the start of the match, as neither side were willing to give the other the upper hand. 10 minutes seemed to fly by in a flash, as that constant pace began to die with tiring legs. Being the trailing team, Stanway were forced to take the initiative and show some real ambition to get themselves back into the final. In doing so, they were the team that started to pile on the pressure. AFC sat off and played for the counter attack, whilst their opponents were adamant on getting themselves back in the fixture.
Pegasus’ ambition was eventually rewarded. After failing to convert some good opportunities on a couple of occasions before the goal, Stanway attacker Luke Payne became impatient and let a speculative shot fly from the best part of 30 yards. A wicked deflection would punish Sudbury, as the trajectory of the ball diverted suddenly to outwit goalkeeper Sam Wright. The ball cannoned off of the crossbar and over the goal line. 1-2... game on !
There was still a good half an hour remaining when Stanway got the goal. This gave them the incentive to push on and get an equaliser with plenty of time left. It would have been too easy for Sudbury to role over and let their counterparts take advantage, however. The goal gave them the motivation to dig their heels in and prevent their opposition from scoring another. The maturity and know-how of a team way above their years got them through the games last 30 plus minutes. The bravery of full backs Ethan Mills and Harry Critchley were key in denying Stanway any further success. The midfield battled hard, with honest and tireless work from Ethan Mayhew, Lewis O’Malley, Joe Osborn and Sam Girling alike. The striker partnership of Freddie King and Jack Renwick were important in providing a platform upfront, as well as chipping in when needed in their own box. Central defenders Matt Wooldridge and Reece Langridge defended admirably and keeper Sam Wright continued to prove crucial in preventing the best efforts of Pegasus.
With less than 2 minutes to play, Stanway earned themselves a wide free kick, deep into Sudbury’s end of the pitch. In frustration of the foul and the place he and his team found themselves in, Stanway’s number 8 lashed out, earning himself a second booking and consequently a red card. Nothing would come of the free kick, nor the following corner as AFC defended brilliantly until the last second of the game.
The referee’s conclusive whistle sent half of the stadium wild. Stanway were left devastated as Sudbury celebrated. “Campeones ! Campeones ! Ole ! Ole ! Ole” echoed around the stadium. All those involved with AFC Sudbury swarmed the pitch as everyone sung and bounced as one ! An unbelievably fluctuant and entertaining cup final ended with AFC Sudbury’s ‘A’ team crowned champions. Hopefully, the feeling that the victory provided for the winners was enough to give them the drive to claim the title of champions in their remaining two finals. The ESBL and Suffolk Primary Cup finals are just around the corner and if they can replicate the performance shown on this big occasion there is no reason why this incredible feat can not be achieved.
The runners-up were showed the respect that they deserved, being rightfully applauded for their own success earlier in the season and for the part they played in making the 2018/19 Tommy Thompson Cup Final one to remember. The emotion in the trophy lift reflected the emotion shown on the pitch to get through the match’s last moments. Photos, more singing and dressing room madness ended a wonderful night of football !
AFC SUDBURY ‘A’ team Triumphant in the Tommy Thompson Cup Final !
By Sam Girling