NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Mackrell fires Star into Hinchingbrooke Cup final
Holders Peterborough Northern Star secured a return-ticket to the Hinchingbrooke Cup final last night (April 12) by beating the same team they overcame to lift the trophy last term.
A solitary strike from full-back Michael Mackrell – his first goal of the season - earned a semi-final victory over Deeping Rangers at Outgang Road to set-up an all-city showpiece clash against Peterborough Sports next month.
Mackrell reacted smartly to steer in a rebound in the 61st minute after Mitchell Johnson’s free-kick had forced a flying save from Rangers goalkeeper Danny Bircham.
Mackrell was one of only two surviving members of the Star side that collected the silverware back in May, 2015, when managed by Seb Hayes and Dom Genovese, to figure in their starting line-up last night.
Goalkeeper Dan George was the other man to feature as new Star boss Raff Mazzarella guided a team inherited from Hayes, who had also won the Hinchingbrooke Cup with Huntingdon in 2013/14, into the final in just his third match at the helm.
Two of the other trophy-winning Star players of last season – Luke Avis and Luke Hunnings - now play for a Deeping side who were hugely disappointing last night.
Their only effort on target was a stoppage-time header from Scott Mooney which beat George, but was ruled out for offside by eagle-eyed assistant Ryan Allison.
Star should have won more far more emphatically with strike ace Craig Smith spurning great opportunities in both halves.
He headed a Chris Jones corner over from close range early on and then fired wide after darting round Bircham moments after his side had hit the front.
Impressive youngster Bobby Bick had forced Bircham into a smart save in the first half when Star also saw a couple of strong penalty appeals for handball offences ignored by referee Richard Hart.
But one goal proved to be enough for United Counties League Premier Division side Star to set-up a tasty clash against Division One champions Peterborough Sports.
The final takes place on May 11 at its traditional venue of Jubilee Park in Huntingdon – and Sports could be going for a quadruple of honours by then.
Jimmy Dean’s men have a Northants Junior Cup final date against Netherton at the ABAX Stadium on April 26 and a League KO Cup showpiece against Holbeach on May 2 beforehand.
Last night’s Lincs Senior Trophy final between Blackstones and Winterton at Sincil Bank was postponed because of a waterlogged pitch.
In Division One South of the Evo-Stik League, Spalding were beaten 2-0 at home by Stocksbridge Park Steels.