Battle Baptist Football Club won a trophy for the first time in its 13-year history on Tuesday night.
The Macron East Sussex Football League runners-up clinched the Premier Travel Challenge Cup with a 2-1 victory over champions Hollington United in a final played at Eastbourne Town FC.
The victory was particularly sweet for a Battle side which has won several promotions as league runners-up and appeared in cup finals without ever lifting a trophy.
A strong collective defensive display, limiting Hollington to few chances, was the bedrock of the win, with the Baptists’ attacking play firing only in fits and starts.
The final exploded into life after 13 minutes when a Dean Boyd corner was cleared back to the same player and his cross found Tom Saunders, who rose high at the far post to loop a header back across goal and into the net.
The Baptists had several opportunities to add to their tally; Trystan Mayhew headed at the goalkeeper and then danced through to force a save at the near post. Adam Higgins-Gooch’s quick feet fashioned an opportunity that was bundled away by Hollington for a corner.
Apart from a long range shot that bounced awkwardly in front of Jake Rudwick as he turned it round the post, Hollington created very little in the first 45 minutes.
The Battle back five of Ian Rafati, Ollie Jeffs, Saunders, Mark Dowling and goalkeeper Rudwick looked well-organised. Saunders in particular was everywhere; winning headers, making tackles and having the better of his duel against Hollington dangerman Sean Ray.
The tireless Glen Carrick and his midfield partner Dale Vinall diligently helped screen their defence by putting in a huge shift in the middle of the park.
Hollington emerged for the second half with clear instructions to move the ball faster and it almost paid immediate dividends; a clever flicked header had to be beaten away by Rudwick.
Battle were proving hard to break down and reward for their resilience came via a moment of magic from Yordanov with 25 minutes remaining. The diminutive Bulgarian dribbled his way past three defenders and into the box before slotting past the goalkeeper for a memorable solo strike.
Hollington reduced their arrears five minutes later; a loose ball in the box got caught agonisingly under the feet of Jeffs and just out of Rafati’s reach, allowing Sam White to score on the turn from eight yards.
Battle hearts were given further cause to flutter when Ray headed wide from a corner and also forced Rudwick into a great one-on-one stop on a rare occasion he escaped the twin attentions of Saunders and Jeffs.
But despite Hollington’s best efforts, Battle managed to play much of the final 10 minutes in the opposition’s half, and might even have scored again through a Mayhew header and if a better pass had been played to substitute Harry Loates, who would have been clean through on goal.
It was a superb all-round effort from Battle, but Saunders got the nod for the coach’s man of the match.
The Baptists will hope to make it a cup double when they contest the National Christian Cup final at The Valley, home of League One club Charlton Athletic, on Saturday May 20.
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