Sports won the Northants FA Hillier Senior Cup for the first time in their history as they sealed a 2-0 victory over Southern League Premier Central rivals AFC Rushden & Diamonds at Sixfields on Tuesday night.
Substitute Jordan Macleod broke the deadlock with his first touch with 12 minutes to go before Dion Sembie-Ferris rounded things off with a breakaway goal in stoppage-time.
There had been a rare penalty miss for Sports’ midfielder Dan Lawlor with the score at 0-0 midway through the second-half and goalkeeper Lewis Elsom, the city’s cup number one, made a couple of key saves.
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With another trophy in the bag, the focus for Dean and his players is to try to gain another promotion through the play-offs. And the manager insists his team will ‘give it everything’ to finish the season in style.
Dean said: “In my head, this is my fifth year in charge. It’s actually seven, but we lost two because of the pandemic. This is our ninth trophy in that time. We started at Step 6 and now we are going for a fourth promotion in five years.
“We have won the Northants Junior Cup and the Senior Cup and there can’t be many teams who have won that in such a quick turnaround.
“I have always liked this tournament looking at it from the outside. Playing against big clubs and getting the chance to play at Sixfields, these are things I love.
“It’s one down, one to go. That doesn’t mean I think we’re going to go and do it. It’s just the fact of the situation we are in.
“I can’t sleep at the moment for two reasons. One, a new baby wakes me up and then as soon as I put my head down to go to sleep again, the football starts. It’s the excitement of doing what we are doing.”
Dean was disappointed with the way his team performed in the first half on Tuesday before they stepped things up in the second period to make it four wins out of four against Diamonds this season.
“I was interested to see where we were in terms of a one-game scenario after gaining a bit of momentum,” he added. “I was interested to see how we handled it and, to be honest, we didn’t handle it very well.
“It was a poor game again, like it was in the league game at our place. I was really frustrated at half-time. We knew it was an opportunity because they did have some players missing and I was frustrated we didn’t go and seize it. It feels like every time we get that opportunity to take a moment, we bottle it and we freeze.
“I wanted people to see what we are all about and I think they saw more of that in the second half than the first.”
In the aftermath of their cup success, Dean also offered a couple of dedications.
“We want to dedicate the win to Colin Day, our club president, and his wife who is in hospital and the other is to Jeff, I’m not going to give his second name as he knows who he is, after he had a tragic loss,” Dean added. “The players and I want them all to know that the cup win was for them.”