MIDDLESEX WANDERERS RETAIN MIDDLESEX VETERANS' CUP
The Veterans’ Cup final, the first of this season’s Middlesex FA finals, was contested on Sunday last, 20th March, at Rectory Meadow (otherwise known as “The Ranch”), the pleasant home of Hanworth Villa FC. The teams involved were Shire United Veterans and Middlesex Wanderers, who have dominated the competition in recent years and who were aiming to win it for the fifth consecutive season. Our roving team of Chris Benn (photographer) and Jim Taylor (reporter) covered the game.
Shire United Veterans had reached the final with wins over Hillingdon Abbots Seniors Sunday Vets (10-2 away) in round 1, West London Casuals Veterans (5-0 away) in round 2 and Rayners Lane Veterans (5-3 home) in the semi-final. In the quarter-final they had a walk-over against Brentford United Vets, who were unable to raise a team.
Middlesex Wanderers, who had received a bye in the first round of the competition, had recorded victories against FC Shepherd’s Bush Old Stars (5-3 away), Jamrock Vets (9-5 home) and Shene Old Grammarians Vets (7-0 away).
26 clubs entered the competition this season.
Prior to the kick off, a silence was observed to remember former Middlesex Wanderers’ player, Wayne Duck, who was tragically killed a few weeks previously. The Wanderers’ players also wore black armbands.
A very watchable and keenly contested game resulted in victory to Middlesex Wanderers but Shire United ran them very close. After a bright start by Shire, Wanderers dominated the first half and went 2-0 ahead. Shire fought back well in the second period. Despite being depleted by a sin-binning and then a red card, they stretched the Wanderers’ defence and eventually reduced the deficit in the final minute of the match.
Shire United made an aggressive start and an attack, straight from the kick off, was repelled by Wanderers’ defender Dave Corran, who intercepted a run by Matthew Graves, at the expense of a corner. Mark Bitmead broke through but fired across goal and past the far post. Matthew Graves then cleared the crossbar with a free kick.
Middlesex Wanderers countered and a quickly taken free kick released Steve Wales, who set up Alan Tait, whose shot was too high.
Wanderers then created a series of openings. A header from Rob Laney was comfortably taken by keeper Gary Ross. Mark Bentley’s run was halted by a foul and Mario Nato hit the resultant free kick from 25 yards over the bar. Nevertheless, they took the lead in the 25th minute through Rob Laney, who shot into the unguarded net, after keeper Gary Ross had come out and failed to get to the ball.
Shire United’s Joal Keys tested Wanderers’ custodian, Ed Thompson with a high shot. Then the keeper came off of his line to beat Mark Bitmead to a through ball from Anthony Oakes.
However, at this stage, Wanderers were still creating the better chances. Alan Tait hit the Shire post, following good approach work by Spencer Knight and Rob Laney. Then Alan and Rob both hit shots off target. Wanderers’ second goal arrived in the 35th minute, when Rob’s low pass, from the right, presented Alan with a tap in.
Both sides had chances, as the interval approached. For Wanderers, Alan Tait shot just wide and then Shire keeper, Gary Ross beat Rob Laney to Steve Wales’ through ball. For Shire, a move involving Anthony Oakes and Mark Bitmead finished with Nicky Bishton’s partially blocked shot being safely taken by goalkeeper, Ed Thompson. Then Ed saved a low free kick, taken from a wide position, by Mark Bitmead,
Half time score: Shire United 0 Middlesex Wanderers 2
Shire United had much more of the possession in the second half. They went onto the offensive early on. Joal Keys fired wide, following a goalmouth skirmish and a well struck shot by Anthony Oakes was saved by Ed Thompson.
At the other end, Rob Laney was brought down on the left of the penalty box. The resulting awkward free kick by Mario Nato hit the keeper and bounced away.
Then Danny Barham’s testing ball into the Wanderer’s box was headed wide by Matthew Graves and Joal Keys’ header from Matthew’s cross brought a save from Ed Thompson.
Shire temporarily lost the services of Anthony Oakes in the 65th minute, when he was sin-binned for 10 minutes. They kept going forward, however. A long free kick into the Wanderers’ box by Chris Evans was headed away. Then Ed Thompson saved another headed attempt by Joal Keys, from another Matthew Graves’ centre. Mark Bitmead had a shot blocked and Joal Keys hit the rebound over the Wanderers’ bar.
Shire had barely been restored to full strength, after Anthony Oakes return from the sin-bin, before Joal Keys was dismissed following a second yellow card, in the 78th minute, for a bad foul, which appeared to border on a straight red incident.
Gary Ross scrambled to keep a close-range prod from Wanderers’ Alan Tait out. Then Steve Wales set up Rob Laney, whose lob cleared the Shire bar. Gary Ross then saved well from Wanderers’ Mario Nato, who had been released by Alan Tait.
Shire United scored in the last of the 4 minutes of added time through Blieu Huskinson, who hustled the ball over the line, following some intense goalmouth action.
Final Score: Shire United 1 Middlesex Wanderers 2
Extremely experienced referee Steven Conway and his three equally experienced colleagues controlled the proceedings admirably.
As Guest of Honour, I had the pleasurable but difficult duty of choosing the Player of the Match. I went for Middlesex Wanderers’ pivotal central defender and captain, Francis Duko, who had successfully marshalled his defence, which wasn’t breached until the very last seconds of the match.
Our grateful thanks are given to Hanworth Villa FC for the use of their fine facilities and for their assistance on the day.
We must also commend the members of Middlesex FA, who turned up and helped ensure the success of the event.
Shire United: Gary Ross, Billy Murphy, Scott Weight, Nicky Bishton, Aaron Oakes, Chris Evans, Matthew Graves, Joal Keys, Anthony Oakes, Mark Bitmead and Danny Barham.
Rolling substitutes: Steven Loveridge, Simon Curran, Blieu Huskinson, James Woods and Ryan Blake.
Manager: Blieu Huskinson Coach: Tom Betts.
Middlesex Wanderers: Ed Thompson, Ricci Crace, David Bastian, Francis Duko, Dave Corran, Mark Bentley, Steve Wales, Mario Nato, Rob Laney, Alan Tait and Spencer Knight.
Rolling substitutes: Adam Parker, Brett Donnelly, Tony Fontinelle, Jeff Minton and Steve Ward.
Manager: Nick Ironton Coaches: Eddie McCluskey, Ivan Spikin and Colm Hickey.
Referee: Steven Conway Assistant Referee: Paul Savva and Neil Saunders Fourth Official: Chris Devlin.
We thank Chris & Jim for attending the Cup Final, as is now customary we have a selection of their favourite shots, and a full album courtesy of Chris Benn.