It’s a season Peterborough Sports won’t want to finish.
Trophy number three is in the bag for the team managed by first-season boss Jimmy Dean and with it a slice of United Counties League history.
No side from the First Division had ever won the competition’s League Cup, but then there has rarely been a First Division side like this one. They have been a Premier Division-quality side playing a level below their real standard all season.
The match at Deeping Rangers FC won’t live long in the memory - elephants would already have forgotten it - as a strong wind, driving rain and uneven playing surface rendered some talented local footballers impotent, but that won’t matter a jot to Sports who add this prestigious cup to the league title and a Northants Junior Cup Final success from a magnificent campaign. They’ll be favourites to add a fourth trophy when contesting the Hinchingbrooke Cup Final against city rivals Peterborough Northern Star on May 11 when lazy headline writers will be working on lines involving an ‘awesome foursome.’
Both sides could argue they deserved to win the game, but it looked like a 0-0 draw from a long way out and the inevitable penalty shoot out was won 6-5 by the city side after eight spot-kicks apiece. Fittingly Ollie Medwynter - one of Sports’ unsung heroes this season - was the man to drive home the winning penalty past impressive young Holbeach ‘keeper Travis Portas.
In the preceeding minutes Jordan Macleod, Avelino Vieira and Jack Bloodworth all held their nerve to convert penalties to keep their side alive. Portas saved from Ali Nyang and Dan Clements earlier in the shoot-out, while McShane, a one-time Peterborough United ‘keeper, kept out efforts from Lee Beeson and, crucially at the end, Jake Clitheroe. Josh Ford hit his spot-kick againt McShane’s bar.
Sports shaded a gruelling contest in terms of quality of football played, but Holbeach can point to two outstanding saves from McShane which stopped silverware travelling to Carter’s Park. McShane’s tip over of Beeson’s 90th-minute strike was spectacular, but his extra-time stop to thwart Andrew Tidswell was even better.
Tidswell’s technique and timing were brilliant as he volleyed a half-cleared set-piece towards the top corner from 20 yards, but McShane. who is not the tallest, appeared from nowhere to turn the ball behind for a corner.
Portas was also excellent with his positional sense enabling him to make tricky saves look easy, most notably with a low stop to keep out Macleod in the second period of extra time.
The rain did stop and the wind abated for the additional 30 minutes which improved the game as a spectacle, but it was all very attritional for 90 minutes with long balls and frequent fouls the order of the day.
Conditions certainly favoured defenders and the better players all performed at the back with Josh Sanders and Karl Gibbs strong for Sports and Nick Jackson and Jamie Stevens excellent for Holbeach, although the use of free-scoring Gibbs as an emergency centre-back and the absence of top scorer Vieira until extra time because of injury concerns helped the pair of Tigers.
Sports always looked most dangerous when Macleod was in possession. He whistled a couple of first-half strikes just over the crossbar in the first-half.
Watching Leeds United manager Steve Evans was probably impressed.
Evans had a foot in both camps as he is a former Holbeach boss and he used to manage a young Jimmy Dean at Stamford.
That might be where Dean learned his lust for winning trophies and his noisy touchline urgings.
Peterborough Sports: Luke McShane 8, Ollie Medwynter 7, Jack Bloodworth 6, Josh Sanders 7, Karl Gibbs 7, Ali Nyang 6, Dan Bucciero 5 (sub David Cobb, 71 mins), Dan Lawlor 5, Dan Clements 6, Josh Moreman 5 (sub Avelino Vieira 91 mins), Jordan Macleod 7. Unused subs; Jake Sansby, Wilkins Makate.
Holbeach United: Travis Portas 8, Ollie Donald 6, Adam Jackson 6, Nick Jackson 7, Jamie Stevens 8, Ollie Pinner 6 (sub Stacy Cartwright, 109 mins), Andrew Tidswell 6, Lee Beeson 6, Ollie Gale 5 (sub Jordan Thomas, 113 mins), Josh Ford 5, Jake Clitheroe 5. Unused subs: Dan Dougall, Paul Newcomb, Tom Roberts.
Cautions: Sports - Lawlor (foul).
Holbeach - Pinner (foul), N. Jackson (foul).
Referee: Matt Morrison (Haverhill) 7.
Holbeach: Tidswell sends McShane wrong way. 1-0
Sports: Sanders with cool sidefoot finish into the corner 1-1
Holbeach; Thomas fires into the roof of the net. 1-1
Sports: Ali Nyang effort well saved by Portas. 2-1
Holbeach: Beeson low shot is saved by McShane. 2-1
Sports: Lawlor shoots expertly into the corner. 2-2
Holbeach: Ford strikes the crossbar. 2-2
Sports: Clements strike is nice height for Portas who saves. 2-2
Holbeach: Donald with a confident finish. 3-2
Sports: Macleod has to score and does with style. 3-3
Holbeach: Cartwright with a splendid strike into the bottom corner. 4-3
Sports: Vieira must score and he rifles home. 4-4
Holbeach: Andy Jackson with a neat finish. 5-4
Sports: Bloodworth holds his nerve to keep his side in it. 5-5
Holbeach: Clitheroe shoots low and hard, but too close to McShane. Saved! 5-5
Sports: Medwynter fires hard to the right of Portas who makes a valiant effort to save it, but it’s too powerful and too accurate. Sports win 6-5!