Saturday 12th May 2018 ko 18.00
North Berkshire Cup Final
BERINSFIELD 2 (Ingram 43p Palmer 71) Kenny sent off 77 (2nd booking)
SAXTON ROVERS 0
At Abingdon United FC
Entry & Programme £4
Something a little different, but perhaps it’s also just the same as normal! As a very proud committeeman at the North Berkshire League it was inevitable I’d be at our Blue Riband event, the North Berkshire Cup Final. But with Benno the press officer away attending a wedding- his own- I was pressed into service to write a report, and Robyn became official photographer. Here are the results.
This season the dominant side in the North Berkhshire League has been Saxton Rovers and they came into the final game of the season unbeaten with 3 trophies already won. With the league championship, Charity Shield and Berks & Bucks Senior Trophy already won only last year’s league, Charity Shield, and NBFL Cup winners, Berinsfield stood between Saxton and a clean sweep of everything they could possibly win.
Of course the Saky/Berry rivalry is the stuff of legend. Abingdon United’s Northcourt Road saw a bumper crowd of 341 as the two rivals slugged it out in the rain in the 101st edition of the NBFL Cup Final. Perhaps inevitably the early challenges were stern and Simon Kenny was fortunate to avoid a straight red for a dreadful challenge on Saxton’s Danny Parry. Referee Darren Hill’s decision to issue only issue a caution was the pivotal moment of the half.
Saxton slowly gained the ascendancy and the Berinsfield defence were tested repeatedly. A neat through ball by Louis Bloomfield found Niall Hodgkins clean through but Tom Lovett died well to smother the chance. What changed the course of the game was Berinsfield’s Luke Holdsworth’s ball down the right channel for Max Palmer to chase. The big striker rode one challenge but was tripped in the box by Lydon Szabo. Mark Ingram sent Jack Absolom the wrong way from the penalty spot to give the underdogs a lead that was against the run of play.
The second half saw a similar pattern of play to the first. Saxton passed and moved with great skill and the Berinsfield back line did everything they knew to stop them, choosing to attack on the counter-attack. One such attack saw saw Tom Mullord appear to bring down Palmer but the Berinsfield man saw yellow for diving.
But still the Saxton attacks kept coming. Lovett tipped a Gary Belcher effort over before Tom Stanley managed to slip Chris Murphy’s challenge but once again there was Lovett to smother the chance.
It was on 71 minutes that man-of-the-match Max Palmer broke Saxton hearts. Luke Saunders’ inswinging corner was perfectly flighted and the striker rose high over the Saxton defence to power a header past Absolom.
Sensing their “Invincibles” season evaporating, Saxton threw everything into attack. Parry’s shot saw Lovett dive full length to palm the chance away before Simon Kenny collected his second yellow in the 77th for a challenge a good deal less severe than his first. Truthfully, he could easily have departed 70 minutes earlier.
Saxton’s frustrations continued. Shane Harris’s challenge prevented Tom Stanley from tapping home at the far post, and Mullord’s header was hacked off the Berinsfield line when on another day the chance would have crept in.
It was a final worthy of closing the North Berkshire League season. Berinsfield celebrated with their usual gusto, but this season the kudos must go to Saxton Rovers. 3 trophies and only one defeat is some achievement.