Development Team Win The Trophy.
By Andrew Parker
The Beautiful Game, it comes in many forms, those who love the sport can admire the attacking feast of a free flowing game as much as the uncompromising toughness of a competitive final between two well matched teams.
Talking of free flowing football, that is how the game started, within seconds, a quick passing move was finished off in masterful fashion by Sonny Devine, his celebration was immediately dedicated to his Nan, all this before some spectators had found their seats.
Would this quick opening set the tone for the rest of the game ? Initially it appeared so as both teams launched into a series of attacks.
One passage of play had Stuart Till driving forward with aggression and style whilst Kuda Butawo brought gasps of admiration from the crowd as he dazzled opposition defenders when seemingly trapped on the touch line.
On the other side of the pitch Christian Mander was showing composure and class with crisp passing and tackling, these qualities were also there in abundance in the impressive Joe Korge, an inspirational force in midfield.
As the half progressed the game started to change, it became more attritional and territorial, Stotfold applied pressure in search of an equaliser and Leighton were tasked with the challenge of keeping them out.
Step up to the plate, Nick Walton and Paolo Bagatti, two young centre halves who play together with a special bond of mutual respect and bravery, in many respects the foundation that victory was built on, a platform of granite like strength that simply refused to buckle.
Assisting the centre halves and operating in dynamic fashion just in front of them was Danny White, endless tackles and interceptions frustrated Stotfold as most of their attacks were ended before they even started.
Half time arrived with the score line showing Leighton in front but with the teams equally matched on the pitch. Having said that, despite Stotfold pressure, it was only the goalpost that stopped Leighton adding to their lead before both teams left the pitch to rest and regroup.
The second half started in similar fashion to how the first half ended, the tone of the game had been set and battle lines drawn, Stotfold determination and Leighton defiance were about to be put to the test in a thrilling finale.
As expected Stotfold pushed hard from the restart, Brad Kirkwood was an imposing figure in the Leighton goal though, not only patrolling his area with assurance but clearing his lines with regular kicks of great quality and distance.
Alfie Ruston was working hard to get Leighton on the front foot again, eventually he succeeded with his usual mix of cunning and mischief, finding space and threatening to find the incisive pass that would seal victory and cup glory.
The game was now finely balanced, there was no reduction in effort or determination from both teams, tired limbs were pushed to their individual limits as it became clear that another Leighton goal would end the contest whilst a Stotfold equaliser would lead to a chaotic finish.
Henry Richmond was now tasked with keeping the Stotfold attack at bay and he immediately dominated his opposite number with his physicality and fierce will to win.
Ade Odutolu was proving to be a constant menace to the Stotfold defenders, successfully matching brute strength with speed he was able to keep Leighton moving forward in search of a clinching goal.
George Oliver was also making an impact on the game as he made the right flank his own, crunching tackles and aerial dominance were combined with numerous thrusts into the opposition area.
The final phase of the contest was now here and was entered with both teams full of belief that today could still be their day, the large crowd was feeling a mixture of excitement and apprehension as the trophy was brought into view.
Max Jones and Andy McGlinchey were now working in tandem up front, throwing themselves into tackles and closing down attempted clearances with enthusiasm and vigour.
It seemed hard to believe that the final whistle had not been blown, Conor Gargan and Seth Taylor looked at the referee in disbelief but then joined in with wild celebrations on the pitch when the game was finally ended minutes into added time.
A great squad victory for Leighton, built on unity, defensive defiance and skill, both teams could argue that they deserved to win but no one could argue with the eventual winners, the Beautiful Game had delivered again.
Sent from my iPad