MIDDLESEX WANDERERS WIN THE VETERANS' CUP FOR THE FIFTH CONSECUTIVE SEASON
The Middlesex FA Veterans’ Cup final was contested on Sunday last, 19th March, at the Skyline Roofing Stadium, the home of Northwood FC. The teams involved were Middlesex Wanderers AFC, who have dominated the competition in recent years and who were aiming to win it for the fifth consecutive season and Belmont Sunday Vets, celebrating the first season of their existence.
30 clubs entered the competition this season.
Middlesex Wanderers, who had received a bye in round 1, had reached the final with wins over Bushey Sports Club Veterans (2-1 at home) in round 2, FC Team Veterans (4-0 at home) in the quarter-final and Continental 58 Vets (2-1 away) in the semi-final.
Belstone Sunday Vets had received walk-overs in the first two rounds (against Continental United and Shire United Vets) and had then beaten London South United Veterans Masters (3-2 away) in the quarter-final and Winchmore Hill Vets B (4-2 at home) in their semi-final.
Middlesex Wanderers were the deserving winners of a very entertaining match but Belmont played well and ran them very close. The action moved swiftly up and down the pitch in an evenly contested first half. Wanderers went ahead in the 20th minute, to lead at half-time. Belmont equalised from the penalty spot, soon after the interval but Wanderers restored their lead almost immediately. Belmont equalised again with 10 minutes remaining but Wanderers then made the score 3-2. They added a 4th goal in added time when Belstone were throwing everyone forward, in search of another equaliser.
Belstone had a scoring chance in the 3rd minute, when Leon Stewart fired over the bar with only the goalkeeper to beat.
Almost immediately, the Belstone keeper, Sam Styles was in action, saving well from Ricky Holmes. Then, Ricky made a run from halfway but defender, Phil Merritt blocked his shot.
In the 14th minute, Ricky Holmes delivered a fierce cross shot which Sam Styles brilliantly tipped over the crossbar. Sam saved Rob Laney’s header from the resulting corner.
Leon Stewart had a couple of attempts at the Wanderers’ goal. His low shot from the edge of the box was wide and then his high shot across goal missed the far post.
Sam Styles took a high cross off of Rob Laney’s head. However, Rob was almost immediately credited with the Wanderers’ opening goal. Ryan Wade lofted a free-kick from the left into the goalmouth and Rob touched it home.
A Middlesex Wanderers’ attack finished with Mark Bentley laying the ball off to Mario Noto, whose shot was just too high.
A dummy run by Rob Laney, facilitated Kezie Ibe’s low shot, which was easily saved by Sam Styles.
A good Belstone move, involving Leon Stewart, Ben Larter and Darren Butler, ended when Darren’s final touch was blocked.
Wanderers finished the first half on the attack. Rob Laney started a passing movement in midfield and was in position at its conclusion, to force a corner.
Steve Wales was set up by Ricky Holmes and hit the Belstone crossbar, with his shot from outside the box.
Half time score: Middlesex Wanderers AFC 1 Belstone Sunday Vets 0
Belstone went on the attack from the restart. In the 55th minute, some good play involving Ben Larter and Darren Butler resulted in defender, Sam Ledger handling Leon Stewart’s shot. Leon sent keeper, Dom Cassells, the wrong way before hitting the resulting penalty hard and low to his right.
Wanderers resumed the attack. Brett Donnelly shot wide. Then Ricky Holmes netted Mark Bentley’s cross to restore their lead.
A shot by Gaz Dauti, from the edge of the box went narrowly wide.
Rob Laney released Brett Donnelly, who was stopped by a timely tackle.
Mario Noto and Ricky Holmes combined to set up Brett Donnelly, whose shot hit the crossbar.
Belstone now put the Wanderers’ defence under pressure with some impressive play as they went in search of another equaliser. A volley by Leon Stewart just cleared the bar and then he had a shot blocked.
Keeper, Dom Cassells came out to thwart Jamie Arthur, who had been put through by Leon. Stuart Blackburne’s run through the middle was halted by the weight of numbers. Ben Larter shot into the side netting and then Leon fired wide.
Jamie Arthur got the equaliser in the 80th minute. Leon Stewart played a square ball to Ben Larter. Ben rode a tackle and fed Jamie, who cut in and netted with a low angled shot.
However, Mark Bentley regained the lead for Middlesex Wanderers, in the 83rd minute, by converting a cross from the left wing.
Belstone piled on the pressure again and forced a succession of corners. Wanderers broke out and Steve Wales and Brett Donnelly found themselves confronted by a lone defender, who managed to intercept the ball.
Gaz Dauti cleared the Belstone bar with a freekick, after Ricky Holmes had been fouled just outside the penalty area.
Brett Donnelly placed the ball home from Ricky Holmes’ square pass to make the game safe for Wanderers in the 4th minute of added time.
Wanderers had a further scoring chance. Mark Bentley won the ball in a tackle and took it down field but chipped it to keeper Sam Styles.
Final Score: Middlesex Wanderers AFC 4 Belstone Sunday Vets 2
The match was expertly handled by referee Peter Smith and his colleagues.
The Guest of Honour, Middlesex FA Chairman, John Taylor, was introduced to the teams and match officials before the game and he presented the cup and the mementoes afterwards. He chose the influential Middlesex Wanderers midfielder, Ricky Holmes as Player of the Match.
Our grateful thanks are given to Northwood FC for allowing us the use of their fine facilities and for their hospitality on the day.
Middlesex Wanderers AFC: Dom Cassells, Tony Fontinelle, Steve Ward, Ryan Wade, Sam Ledger, Mario Noto, Steve Wales (capt), Ricky Holmes, Rob Laney, Kezie Ibe and Mark Bentley.
Rolling substitutes: Warren Bayliss, Brett Donnelly, Phil Turner, Ricci Crace and Gaz Dauti.
Manager: Nick Ironton Coaches: Eddie McCluskey and Spencer Knight Physio: Dave Bastien.
Belstone Sunday Vets: Sam Styles, James Rattray, Jamie Distin, Phil Merritt, Drew Afshar, Darren Butler, Michael Coffey (capt), Ben Larter, Leon Stewart, Stuart Blackburne and Darren Turner.
Rolling substitutes: Chris Ingham, Paul Dennis, Gerry Hefferen, Fabio Valente and Jamie Arthur.
Manager: John Beschizza Coaches: Mark Blackburne, Lee Maddison and George Bramble Physio: Phillipa Heslop.
Referee: Peter Smith Assistant Referees: Noel Glavin and Patrick Griffin Fourth Official: Brett Miller.
We thank Chris & Jim for covering another exciting Cup Final, Chris has kindly provided a full album of imagery from the game.