Leamington Hibernian Sunday were crowned Sunday Amateur Cup champions following a dramatic finish at the Walter Goodman Stadium.
With a beautiful playing surface being laid on at Ray Hall Lane, the weather played its part in creating the ideal Cup Final setting. Bright sunshine, with a slight chill in the air had everyone keen to get out there and get their hands on some silverware.
The early exchanges were scrappy though, with no real rhythm to the game. Jamie Taylor showed good pace down the left for Football Futures 2013, but his low cross was cleared by the towering figure of Carl Smedley.
There was an early Futures penalty shout after what looked like handball by Leamington Hibernian Sunday’s wing-back, Lance Clarke, however the Referee remained unmoved.
A few minutes later, with Hibs growing into the game, a dangerous free kick was struck nicely by midfielder Luke Swinnerton, only to be denied by Joshua Richards in the Futures goal.
Shortly after Futures’ Shane Lloyd challenged for a header in the box before lashing the ball into the roof of the net, but the Assistant Referee somewhat harshly deemed Lloyd’s aerial challenge to be a foul.
Futures began to take control of the game with Taylor being played in by Andrew Keighley, only to be denied by Hibs’ keeper Ryan Mason. The Hibs back three of Carl Smedley, Craig Wallsgrove and Steve Formosa were beginning to have their work cut out, making some last-ditched tackles to keep the opposition at bay.
They found a breakthrough on 26 minutes, however, after a long throw in was flicked on by the impressive Michael Hawthorn to Lloyd, who was there at the back post to head home and give Futures a deserved lead.
Leamington Hibernian Sunday’s strikers were becoming increasingly frustrated as the half wore on, as they were left isolated with little service.
Kurt Parsons won a header from a corner just before the interval, but was unable to steer his effort past Mason in the Futures net. Simon Quigley then saw his fierce effort fly wide at the other end, denying his side a bigger lead at the break.
The pattern of play continued in the second half, with a few nice spells of possession for Futures interspersed with some scrappy exchanges.
They broke well on 57 minutes, with Quigley weaving past three players down the right before feeding Taylor, whose shot was tipped over by Mason.
On 62 minutes, a moment of controversy as Lloyd was played in by Keighley only to be brought down by Hibs defender Parsons. He looked sheepishly at the Referee, perhaps expecting the worst, however he was only shown yellow card with the resulting free kick successfully tipped over by the seemingly inspired Mason.
There was plenty of effort and endeavour from Hibs, but they seemed to be running out of ideas in the final third with their attacking players continually struggling to impose themselves on the game.
Substitute Carson showed good feet to beat a defender, but his low cross was gathered by Richards in the Futures goal. Carson was in again moments later, however his tame effort was no problem for the keeper.
As the contest drew to a close Ashley Kitchen battled aerially with his opponent to create a chance for Luke Swinnerton, whose strike took a slight deflection before creeping past Richards into the bottom corner to draw the game level.
With this being one of the last actions of the contest, it meant the winner of the 2019 Sunday Amateur Cup Final would be decided by penalties.
And it was Hibs who drew first blood, with a world class save from eventual player of the match Ryan Mason denying Michael Coogan. It was a beautifully struck penalty, and Coogan probably had every right to expect to see the net bulge, but Mason flew to his right and palmed it away with a strong left hand.
With the next penalties being dispatched with ease, it was Paul Smith who was then to be denied. His low strike was well stopped by Richards, keeping the scores level at 3-3 after four penalties each.
Another twist soon followed when Ant Barron, who had the chance to give his team the lead, struck wide leaving Hibs’ Smedley with the chance to take glory.
Smedley made no mistake from the spot, resulting in Leamington Hibernian Sunday winning the Sunday Amateur Cup Final after a 4-3 victory on penalties.
Speaking after the game, winning manager Alan Guilford was full of praise for his team: “The guys were fantastic second half. I thought we were hungry and all three substitutes who came on were fantastic – They changed the game in our favour.
“It makes you proud as a manager, to equalise with five minutes to go and then kick on again is a fantastic feeling.”
When talking about his nerves during the shootout, Guilford gave an honest account following penalty trouble in the past.
“Going into the penalties I was not confident at all. We have lost a few penalty shootouts already this season, but we put it right when it mattered.
“It means everything. It is nice to get a trophy in the bag and hopefully we have got the league to come next.”
Highlights and photographs will be uploaded on our social channels in due course.
Our next County Cup Final is the Joel Richards Memorial Cup Final, taking place at Stourbridge Football Club on Monday 15 April, 7:45PM kick-off.