The final of the Junior Cup Final, the second oldest of our competitions was the eighth to be contested this season. It took place at Berkeley Fields, the excellent home of North Greenford United FC, on Wednesday last, 20th April. The teams involved were AFC Spelthorne Sports Club and Hayes & Hillingdon. Our roving team of Chris Benn (photographer) and Jim Taylor (reporter) attended the game, which was played on a pleasant spring evening, albeit with an occasionally disruptive wind, which added to the entertainment.
The players take the field
The Middlesex Junior Cup was first played for in the season 1891-92, two years after the inauguration of the Senior Challenge Cup and (apart from during the periods covering the two World Wars) has been contested continuously since then. The first winners were Millwall Reserves and the next Brentford.
The prematch presentations
AFC Spelthorne received walkovers in rounds 1 and 2 of this season’s competition, against Ruislip and then Brentham Reserves. They then beat Parkfield 6-2 (away) in the quarter-final and Harrow Bhoys 1-0 (away) in the semi-final. They currently compete in the Surrey County Intermediate League and were formed in 1922.
Hayes and Hillingdon, who are in the Middlesex County League Division 1 South/West, were formed as recently as 2019. They drew a bye in round 1 and then qualified for final with victories over Ickenham 3-1 (away), Sporting Duet 4-2 (home) and Kodak Harrow 2-1 (away).
26 teams entered the Junior Cup this season.
The two teams provided the large and enthusiastic attendance with an exciting and extremely hard-fought match. The long and high (occasionally very high) ball was a favoured tactic of both sides but a lot of skilful touches were displayed during the 90 minutes. Hayes & Hillingdon initially threatened to overwhelm their opponents and were 2-0 up just over midway through the first half. However, Spelthorne scored just before the interval and then dominated the early stages of the second half. They equalised in the 66th minute and the match seemed to be destined for a penalty shoot-out until Hayes & Hillingdon went ahead again in the 86th minute of normal time and then added another goal in added time.
Hayes & Hillingdon went onto the attack from the kick off. In the first minute, Spelthorne keeper Liam Harper saved Joe Shepherd’s header. Then Jamie Gourey shot on the turn but fired wide.
At the other end, a good passing movement, involving Aaron Oakes, Stuart Reynolds and Darren Butler broke down when a defender intercepted the latter’s pass.
Connor Goodliffe puts Hayes & Hillingdon 1-0 up
In the 17th minute, Hayes & Hillingdon’s energetic midfielder, Connor Goodliffe burst through the Spelthorne rear-guard, brushing aside several challenges in doing so and placed the ball past the Spelthorne keeper to put his side ahead.
Joe Shepherds's 40 yard free kick clears the Spelthorne crossbar
Hayes & Hillingdon skipper Joe Shepherd’s free kick, from around 40 yards, just cleared the Spelthorne bar. Hayes & Hillingdon increased their lead in the 27th minute through Jamie Gourey, who ran virtually unchallenged from halfway before blasting the ball home. Keeper, Liam Harper got a hand to the shot but couldn’t stop it.
Jamie Gourey nets Hayes & Hillingdon's second goal
It appeared, at this stage, that Hayes & Hillingdon were going to overpower Spelthorne and walk away with the match. However, Spelthorne started to come more into the game. A good run by Darren Butler ended with his shot being blocked and then Luis Croxford shot narrowly wide from 25 yards.
Temiloluwa Oyenekan's header reduces the arrears for Spelthorne
Spelthorne reduced the deficit in added time at the end of the half, when substitute Temiloluwa Oyenekan brilliantly headed home a wide free kick. This proved to be one of the turning points of a fluctuating game.
Score at half time: AFC Spelthorne Sports Club 1 Hayes & Hillingdon 2
Temiloluwa’s goal inspired his team-mates, who stepped up several gears. Spelthorne were now virtually unrecognisable from the outfit which started the game. They mounted a spell of pressure from the restart and the Hayes & Hillingdon keeper, Ryan Lensz was frequently called into action.
Ryan held onto a well struck free kick from Aaron Oakes. Tom Hall set up Temiloluwa, who shot narrowly wide. Then Luis Croxford went close, with a low shot from the edge of the box, through the crowded goalmouth. During a goalmouth melee, the ball hit the Hayes & Hillingdon goal frame and then the keeper tipped a free kick from Spencer Murphy over the crossbar.
Luis Croxford's header levels the scores for Spelthorne
Spelthorne equalised in the 66th minute, when a long free kick, into the penalty area, was headed home by Luis Croxford.
Spelthorne continued to have the better scoring chances, although a shot on the turn from Hayes & Hillingdon’s Danny McDonnell narrowly cleared their crossbar. Hayes & Hillingdon custodian, Ryan Lensz made important saves from drives by Courage Mukandi and Luis Croxford, at the expense of corners. Then, an overhead kick by Temiloluwa from Courage’s cross just missed its target.
In the 86th minute, with a penalty shoot-out seeming likely, Hayes & Hillingdon regained the lead, through Connor Goodliffe, who smashed home a wide free kick taken by Joe Shepherd.
Spelthorne came back and Hayes & Hillingdon survived a melee, following a corner, which ended when Ryan Lensz grabbed the ball.
Conor Gleeson shoots to clinch the match at 4-2 for Hayes & Hillingdon
Conor Gleeson made the game safe for Hayes & Hillingdon, from close range, in the 3rd of the 6 minutes of additional time.
Final Score: AFC Spelthorne Sports Club 2 Hayes & Hillingdon 4
Referee Robert Reid controlled the proceedings admirably. He was very well supported by his team of officials.
The Guest of Honour, Middlesex FA Finance Director, Steve Grover chose the inspirational Hayes & Hillingdon skipper, Joe Shepherd as Player of the Match. Steve’s choice demonstrates that, despite being a QPR season ticket holder, he does know something about football.
Our thanks are given to North Greenford United, our hosts, for allowing us to stage the game at their ground and for the tremendous efforts which they made to ensure the success of the evening.
The attendance was a very healthy 276.
AFC Spelthorne Sports Club: Liam Harper. Stuart Reynolds, Alex Dixon. Max Macleod, James Sutherland, Aaron Oakes, Luis Croxford, Ollie Bryan-Kerr, Tom Hall (capt), Spencer Murphy and Darren Butler.
Rolling substitutes: Peter Butler, Temiloluwa Oyenekan, Courage Mukandi, Kai Rudd and Jack Whittall.
Manager: Daren Read Coaches: Chris Pearson and Nathan Jones.
Hayes & Hillingdon: Ryan Lensz, Luke Jones, Connor Goodliffe, Joe Shepherd (capt), Danny McDonnell, Jamie Gourey, Conor Gleeson, Sam Baigent, Jake Edmunds, Erik De Lima and Michael Gunster.
Rolling substitutes: Chris Brady, David Callanan, Stuart Williams, Charlie Casey and Connor Odell.
Manager: Gavin Shepherd Coaches: Joe Casey and Connor Shaw Physio: George Hatt.
Referee: Robert Reid Assistant Referees: John Noblemunn and Mervyn Hughes Fourth Official: Garrett Eeles.
We thank Chris and Jim for joining us at another Final as we edge closer to the end of the 2021/22 season, as ever Chris & Jim have reviewed Chris' work and have identified a number of their favourite shots which can be found throughout this report. Chris has also very kindly provided a full album of imagery from the match.
Chris & Jim's Picks
Full album courtesy of Chris Benn