Sunday League: Constant and Clapham lift the cups

Constant & Co and M&DH Clapham Sunday rounded off the Michael R Peters Bedford Sunday League in style with cup victories.

On Sunday, two First Division teams met in the final of the Britannia Harrison & Rowley Cup at Biggleswade Town - with Constant triumphing after a penalty shoot out.

Meltis Mexicans were going for a League and Cup double, whilst Constant & Co Athletic were looking for a piece of silverware from the final after finishing runners-up in Division One to Meltis.

It was another dry, breezy day when the teams took the field. The game started quite slowly, both teams feeling each other out before settling into their game plan. Meltis began to take the upper hand with Danny Pilgrim putting dangerous crosses in from the left wing, and having to bear the disappointment of putting the ball into the Constant net only for it to be ruled a ‘no goal’.

It was against the run of play when Constant scored first. It was a goal worth waiting for, Sheldon Washington lashing in a fierce shot from outside the Meltis penalty area in the 27th minute. Constant’s glee was short lived, however, as a minute later Darek Jozwiak found himself with the ball at his feet inside the Constant penalty area, and he slotted in a fine shot to level the score. There was a lively spell up to half-time with both teams being able to match each other, but in the second half Constant came more into the game with Bennie Benson getting a better ball supply from his team mates to put pressure on the Mexican’s defence.

Damon Hazelwood was forced to take over from injured keeper Ricky Holmes and earned his corn with some tremendous saves. Extra time began briskly and three minutes into the first half a speculative shot by Richard Cook from a country mile out bamboozled Constant’s keeper Tom Buck.

The bounce and pace on the shot took the ball over Tom’s head and into the net for a fortunate goal for the Mexicans. Constant then really came into their own playing the better football than the tiring Meltis team. There were goal chances at both ends but Constant just could not convert their better chances into goals. With time running out Constant made their last attack, and from a right hand cross Michael Hatton jumped the highest of a cluster of players on the far post and headed into the Meltis net to equalise and bring on the penalty shoot-out.

Constant & Co won the penalty shoot-out. The unfortunate skipper of Meltis, James Allen, had his spot kick brilliantly saved by Tom Buck.

So Constant & Co. have won the Britannia Harrison & Rowley Cup for the first time. Meltis Mexicans’ Damon Hazelwood was adjudged the Man of the match.

On Friday evening, Fourth Division side M & DH Clapham Sunday played Fifth Division GNG Tigers in the final of the M & DH Insurance Cup competition at Kempston Rovers’ ground.

This was the meeting of an experienced Clapham team and a young GNG Tigers side who are new to the league this season, and already the winners of the Fifth Division title. This was a game between players with experience and physical presence in key areas of the field, and the quicksilver attacking game of the younger side.

It took only five minutes to show up a weakness in the GNG defence when at a corner from the left hand side, both towering Clapham forwards were left completely unmarked ten yards out, and one of them, Richard Barrett, had the simple task of heading the ball into the net past the exposed, flailing GNG keeper Rajan Nandra. GNG were unlucky not to get an equaliser a minute later at the other end, but the Clapham defence scrambled the ball clear. Nathan Aulsberry, minutes later, also had a good chance to score for GNG but shot straight at the keeper. The football raced from end to end with GNG getting a foothold in the game, playing their quick football, especially when Aulsberry and Ayaz Hussain combined well down the left stretching the Clapham defence, but GNG were not able to find a clear route to goal due to solid work by the Clapham defence. Half-time came with the score still on 1-0

GNG started the second half the better with two very good chances within less than a minute between them, but keeper Dominic Wilford pulled off some fine saves to deny GNG an equaliser. However, in another attack on 57 minutes, the ball came to Nathan Aulsberry just outside the area right in front of the goal and he crafted a measured dipping shot over the keeper’s head and into the net for a GNG equaliser.

The pressure was then put on by the Clapham forwards and Rajan Nandra was kept busy in his goal using his punching-out skills to good effect against the towering Garbould and Barrett. But in the seventieth minute Danny Garbould had the ball at his feet in the GNG area and with a smart turn he rifled the ball into the net with his trusty left foot to make the score 2-1.

In the last quarter of the game there was cut and thrust at both ends with both teams producing some tough tackling. The game was sealed with three minutes left when after a short free-kick, which caught the GNG defence napping again, Mark Smith ran unopposed into the left hand side of the penalty area, shooting into the far corner of the Tigers’ net. Final score 3-1 to Clapham Sunday.

The matches marked the completion of the Bedford & District Sunday programme for the season 2010/2011. The new season is scheduled to start again on Sunday, September 4.

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