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Sovereign Saints 7 – 3 Parkfield (aet)

What a night, what a match, and what a win. Saturday's match report against the same opposition predicted that Cup Finals aren't meant to be easy, and this one certainly wasn't as Parkfield made Saints battle all the way before eventually extra time and a rampant Phil Broom were needed to settle a rollercoaster of a game.

Saints lined up with back four of Joe Dunlop and Jack Murphy at right and left back and a central defensive pairing of Aaron Brindley and Jack Haffenden, a centre midfield of Craig Fullerton and Jack Griffin, captain George Wheeler on the right wing and Tom Wilding on the left with George Sambrook partnering Phil Broom up front. A late call was made on goalkeeper Aaron Diddams who, despite not being 100%, had recovered sufficiently from a viral infection to take his place in the team - although anyone who saw him at the end could see he still has some recovering to do. A strong bench was made up of David Wisdom, Kieran Parks, Zach Taylor and Chester Havard, with a still on crutches Robbie Callingham named as the fifth sub in recognition of his contribution to the season before his ankle break in February.

The opening 45 minutes could not have been much more one sided as Saints dominated from start to finish, but somehow found themselves at the interval 2-0 down. The best of the host of chances Saints created came as early as the 6th minute when the keeper saved well at his near post from Broom. The keeper also had to be at his best to tip a Sambrook header on to the bar in the 22nd minute and to deal with the barrage of corners Saints were winning. It was therefore somewhat against the run of play when in the 32nd minute Parkfield took the lead as Diddams was unable to hold on to a free kick and the rebound fell invitingly to a Parkfield player to tuck away. And two minutes before the break another free kick was Saints undoing, this time one from distance that the defence failed to clear and a Parkfield player smashed in the loose ball.

Second half - Saints had it all to do and needed an early goal, which is exactly what Tom Wilding got for them 4 minutes in as he was first to react to a loose ball in the Parkfield area and buried a low left footed shot. But 3 minutes later and the comeback hit the rails, as a swift Parkfield break resulted in another free kick conceded on the edge of the area, Jack Griffin's clumsy challenge also bringing the first booking of the evening. Diddams save reached the edge of the area but was smacked straight back past him at it was 3-1. Parkfield had now had 3 chances and scored them all.

Back to 3-2 it was when Sambrook expertly guided in a header from a cross from the left. With 25 minutes still to go with the game was now very much more about Saints dominance and Parkfield's defiance and threat on the counter. Up front Broom had a handful of good chances, while at the other end Haffenden picked up a yellow card, Diddams made one great full stretch save and Parkfield also rattled his crossbar. With 14 minutes to go Kieran Parks was Saints first substitute replacing Wilding on the left wing, but as the time continued to ebb away it was Griffin that eventually popped up with the equaliser 6 minutes from the end. When a ball broke kindly for him in space on the edge of the area he had time to look up and slide a perfectly executed low shot beyond the keepers reach and into the far corner. The fresh legs of David Wisdom replaced Fullerton, and Haffenden and Sambrook both went close with headers, but 3-3 it was at full time, and so to an extra 30 minutes.

And all it took was 2 of those 30 minutes for Saints to take the lead for the first time as Broom with his back to goal controlled a high ball on his chest, swivelled and flashed a low volley past the helpless keeper. Time for more fresh legs as first a shattered Sambrook made way for Zach Taylor, and then an even more shattered Brindley hobbled off for Chester Havard. In fact with plenty of others out there running on empty manager Alan Dale did come close to sending on Robbie Callingham on his crutches. On 102 minutes Murphy somehow found the energy to surge into the box and deliver a low cross for Broom to finish at the far post and the first period of extra time finished with Saints holding a 5-3 advantage.

Parkfield were now broken and in the last 15 Broom scored his 3rd and 4th, rounding the keeper before tapping in on both occasions. And with the Town Hall clock in the background showing the time at nearly 10.00pm the final whistle eventually blew and Saints celebrations could begin.

Two players who go about their business without too much mention in the match reports had absolutely immense performances out there, Craig Fullerton pulling the strings in the middle of the park, and Joe Dunlop at right back put in what all agreed was his best performance of the season. But the evening wasn't about individuals, it was about a true team performance and a grit and determination and self belief that eventually saw them over the line.

And it wasn't just about the players on the pitch, it was a true Club evening, and the support on show on the terraces in the 200+ strong crowd was incredible and well appreciated. Indeed the whole evening began with the U7s and U8s providing mascots which added to the whole atmosphere, and we hope they all enjoyed their evening.


Punnetts Town 2 – 5 Sovereign Saints (aet)

Mission accomplished…treble won…Saints' incredible season comes to a thrilling and successful end.

Yes last night Saints completed an Eastbourne FA Cup double to add to their ESFL Division 4 title as they won the Eastbourne Junior cup with victory over Punnetts Town in another nail biting cup final in front of a good crowd at the Saffrons. The match, a repeat of the final of two years ago, went all the way to extra time, before Saints proved too strong for their opponents hitting 3 unanswered strikes in the extra 30 minutes.

Saints lined up with exactly the same team (11 + 5 subs) as for the Vice Presidents Cup Final 3 weeks ago, albeit starting with a slightly different formation - manager Alan Dale favouring the 3-1-4-2 which meant Aaron Brindley playing just in front of a back three of Joe Dunlop, Jack Haffenden and Jack Murphy. The midfield consisted of Craig Fullerton and Jack Griffin in the centre, with Tom Wilding and captain George Wheeler on the flanks, and a front two of George Sambrook and Phil Broom. In goal it was great to see Aaron Diddams, who played the last final whist still badly ill, back to his best - indeed without having to do anything spectacular he was the busiest of the two keepers in the opening 10 minutes of the game and his calm and assured handling and command of his box gave those in front of him plenty of confidence.

Although a little disjointed at times early on, Saints contained Punnetts Town's lively start and gradually settled themselves into the match. The formation was switched to 4-4-2 with Brindley dropping back in, the midfield started winning the key tackles and headers, and the front two, plus Tom Wilding began to create good chances. All 3 had tested the Punnetts Town keeper before the first goal of the game arrived in the 37th minute, as Sambrook cut in from the right and released the ball to Wilding who, on being forced out wide left to the bye line, cut the ball back into the path of Sambrook arriving in the centre of the penalty area to hit a powerful side foot shot straight into the middle of the unguarded goal with the keeper stranded at his near post.

Half time, 1-0, and the focus for the second half was to take a firm grip of the game and look for that all important next goal. But alas Punnetts Town had other ideas. They had already fashioned a couple of openings, one of which saw Brindley pick up a booking for impeding their striker's passage to goal, when on 61 minutes a simple ball through the middle opened up the Saints defence and Christian Puttock raced clear and coolly slotted it past the advancing Diddams for 1-1. On to the attack went Saints, Sambrook and Broom both getting a good number of chances, but again finding the keeper in good form. With 15 minutes remaining Saints first substitution saw Zach Taylor replace Brindley at the back and just two minutes later Saints took the lead for the second time. A quickly taken short corner gave Craig Fullerton acres of space to open up the angle before delivering an un-defendable cross to the far post where Jack Griffin rose highest to power a header into the roof of the net - in fact so deep was Fullerton's cross that there is a rumour that the Dubious Goals Committee may well have to adjudicate on whether the ball was already over the line before it reached Griffin's head. But as the old adage goes you are most at risk of conceding straight after you have scored and that is exactly what happed as a cross from Punnetts Town's left wing was volleyed in for an equaliser just two minutes later and it was all square again.

Saints continued to threaten and create chances, Broom hit the bar and Sambrook drew another fine save from the keeper, but at the other end Punnetts Town sensed (quite correctly as it turned out) that their best chance of winning the game was to do so inside 90 minutes and final minute of the game saw Saints having to defend a free kick just inches outside the box, which thankfully was fired harmlessly over the bar.

So it was extra time once again, and just like 3 weeks ago against Parkfield Saints blew their opposition away in the extra 30 minutes. The difference this time was that, unlike that Parkfield game when all were completely sapped of energy, Saints noticeably had more energy man for man and after getting their noses in front totally dominated. The real talking point of the match (and breaking point for Punnetts Town) arrived 5 minutes into extra time, as their striker and Jack Murphy tussled for a ball on the left edge of Saints area the referee appeared to blow for a penalty, but on seeing the flag of his (much closer to the incident) Assistant raised he immediately sought his opinion, and the resulting decision was that the foul was deemed to have been committed on, not by, Murphy. And within a minute the ball was at the other end of the pitch at the feet of Broom who with his back to goal turned and curled a delightful low shot beyond the outstretched arm of the keeper and into the bottom corner of the net for 3-2 to Saints. Then on 103 minutes a sweeping move down the left hand side involving Kieran Parks, who had replaced Wilding late in normal time, and Broom set up Sambrook with time to pick his spot and fire in the fourth.

The second period of extra time was just 2 minutes old when Saints added a fifth and final goal. George Wheeler chipped a free kick from wide on the right into the heart of the penalty area where for some inexplicable reason all Punnetts Town's players parted like the Red Sea as they all ran in completely different directions leaving a totally unmarked "Moses" Broom to hit a first time half volley into an empty net. The fresh legs of David Wisdom and Chester Havard immediately replaced Broom and Griffin, and a dominant Saints comfortably saw out the game 5-2.

Punnetts Town are a good side, but although they had their moments Saints dominated in most areas of the pitch. Alan Dale and Iain Stiles' substitute management was spot on with tactical changes and fresh energy introduced at perfect times - Kieran Parks' introduction in particular couldn't have worked better as he terrorised the flagging Punnetts Town defence in extra time. Throughout Saints were solid at the back, Jack Murphy in particular having another exceptional game, strong in midfield, and upfront Phil Broom was tricky and creative, and George Sambrook was strong and tenacious and deservedly was awarded the Bill Hyde Trophy for Man of the Match.

And once again the support from both inside and outside the Club was fantastic. The mascots (19 of them!) were provided by our very strong U9 teams, and although some had to leave before the end, a good number were still there and were able to celebrate with the players on the pitch after the final whistle. The support and singing from the Phil Broom Fan Club was memorable, and by the end their attentions were also on the manager as they sang out "Alan Dale's barmy army". Sorry cannot name check all the spectators, but a mention for Daniel Sadler who brought the black and yellow flag which looked great!