The weather was almost perfect with bright blue sky, minimal clouds, and a chill in the air but with the wind picking up every so often, it had the potential to spoil Empire’s mission of retaining their trophy. The playing surface at Ray Hall Lane looked incredible and the spectators were out in force to make this final a memorable one.
Team Line Ups
Coventry Empire: Luke Seery (GK), Jack Rooney (C), Jordan Fesel, Rhys Deehan, Abdul Muhammad, Josh Galvin, Lewis Ludford, Callum Maguire, Liam Davies, Liam Rock, Connor Tallett. Subs: Jordan Bannister, Harvey Billing, Sam Jackson, Yoann Tsamas, Ryan Pedley
Hundred Acre: John Green (GK), Mason Hunt, Matt Hunt (C), Matt Doherty, Joshua Bates, James Earle, James Jobson, Joe Jobson, Keiran Jackson, Jamie Nugent, Adam Chaouki. Subs: Ross Collins, Matt Gardner, Marcus Stewart, Rob Kelly, Cameron Riley (GK)
The early exchanges of the game were nothing to shout about with only a half chance for Hundred Acre, and it wasn’t until the 7th minute where the game sprung to life. John Green in the Hundred Acre goal tried to replicate Ederson & Alisson’s neat foot work, but almost ended up like Steffan as he got caught on the ball by Liam Rock who couldn’t quite take full advantage with his effort being deflected for a corner.
Empire were much the stronger team after this and had a couple of half chances around the 15-20 minute mark. A free kick was sent into the box by Lewis Ludford which resulted in a scramble before the ball broke for Abdul Muhammad who tried his luck but the effort went well wide. Rock was starting to cause havoc for the Hundred Acre defence and he was almost able to break the deadlock but his final product wasn’t enough to beat Green.
James Earle’s afternoon came to an early close as he was substituted in the 27th minute with an unfortunate knee injury and was replaced by Matt Gardner. Straight after the sub, Hundred Acre had their best effort so far with Jamie Nugent forcing a brilliant save from Luke Seery as he turned a powerful shot round the post for a corner.
Just a couple of minutes later, Coventry Empire would get their breakthrough as Rock burst forward once again and was clipped in the box by Matt Doherty to make it an easy decision for referee Luke Bowles to point to the spot. Rock dusted himself off and stepped up to take the penalty where he coolly slotted into the bottom right corner sending Green the wrong way and Empire into a 1-0 lead. For his troubles, Doherty was also yellow carded.
Hundred Acre, trying to square things up before the break had another half chance when Muhammad’s header landed at Nugent’s feet but his first-time volley went well over. Liam Davies was then through on goal for Empire but took a little too long to get his shot off and the defender made a last-ditch tackle to send the ball out for a corner in the last minute of the first half.
That proved to be a decisive corner for Empire as Ludford smashed the ball into the box and it was perfect for Connor Tallett who headed past Green leaving him no chance. The header gave the Coventry based side a comfortable 2-0 lead heading into the second half.
Back underway, it was a tense affair in the opening minutes and on the 49th minute Tony Jobson [Hundred Acre Manager] was in the referee’s book for disagreeing with a decision. Jobson then sent on Ross Collins for Joshua Bates in the hope of inspiring a comeback. Hundred Acre did look lively, and Joe Jobson tried his luck from range but didn’t connect properly as the ball went sailing over the crossbar.
In the 64th minute, Callum Maguire was booked for a challenge, before Empire made their first substitution of the game to see Ryan Pedley replace Liam Davies in an attacking change. It almost paid off with an immediate impact from Pedley who nicked the ball off the defender and unleashed a shot which ended up way over the crossbar.
Hundred Acre finally got their breakthrough after a defensive error in the box meant Nugent could pounce on the ball and easily slot it into the back of the net to make for an interesting last 17 minutes in the game. In the next minute of play, Ludford picked up a yellow card for a late tackle before a moment of madness occurred. Kieran Jackson saw red after raising his hands to a couple of Coventry Empire players and Luke Bowles was left with no chance but to send him off.
Two quickfire substitutions for Empire followed with them looking to maintain their slender lead and Harvey Billing and Sam Jackson entered the fray replacing Callum Maguire and Liam Rock respectively. A change for Hundred Acre followed with Mason Hunt being replaced by Marcus Stewart in a last-ditch attempt to take the game to penalties.
Late in the game, Josh Galvin made way for Jordan Bannister before Billing found himself in space after some neat work down the Empire left but his shot fell wide of the post. Pedley received a late yellow card for not retreating 10 yards for a free kick, and to wind the clock down further, Empire made their last change of the game with Yoann Tsamas coming on for Connor Tallett.
In added time, Pedley almost made sure of the victory with another effort from range which was a lot closer than his previous, this time flying just inches over the bar. That would be the last action of the game as Luke Bowles drew a close to the final and Coventry Empire could celebrate retaining the Sunday Vase.
Each nominated Club Volunteer received their award from Beacon Football Leagues Management Committee member David Clinton, presented to Ian Brown of Coventry Empire and Rob Kelly of Hundred Acre.
The man of the match went to Hundred Acre’s James Jobson for a solid performance for the runners up.
You can view the official photographs taken by Focus Dunn Sports Photography by clicking here.
Extended highlights of the Cup Final can be watched below: