Battle Baptist Football Club has won the National Christian Cup for the second time in three seasons.
The East Sussex Football League runners-up regained the coveted trophy courtesy of a splendid 2-0 win against Liverpool-based St Sebastians in the final today (Saturday).
Splendid goals in either half from Jamie Lindsay and Josh Pickering enabled Battle to overcome very good opposition at The Valley, home of League One play-off finalists Charlton Athletic.
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It was St Sebastians’ first defeat for two years and atoned perfectly for Battle’s 5-1 defeat on Merseyside in last season’s semi-finals.
A Battle victory had looked highly unlikely in the opening 20 minutes as St Sebastians dominated the play with some attractive passing football.
Battle goalkeeper Connor Saunders made two fairly comfortable saves in the first four minutes before St Sebastians went close to what would’ve been an absolute wonder goal with a sweetly-struck volley from an angle which only just missed the target.
The Baptists won two corners in quick succession just after the midway point in the first half and from that point on started to gain a foothold in the game.
St Sebastians flashed an angled drive across the face of Battle’s goal and the resulting corner was headed wide before Battle opened the scoring against the run of play in the 39th minute.
Lindsay ran at the opposing defence before unleashing a brilliant 25-yard drive into the corner of the net for a goal which would’ve been worthy of the dramatic League One play-off semi-final at the same ground last night.
Saunders pulled off a terrific double save three minutes after the goal to preserve Battle’s slender advantage at half time.
Battle looked increasingly secure during a second period in which Saunders was barely tested. St Sebastians enjoyed plenty of possession, but struggled to break down a resolute and determined Battle defence.
Battle left-back Harry Gooch effected a great sliding tackle in his own penalty box, injuring himself in the process and having to be substituted.
Adam Staplehurst headed off target at the far post from Dean Boyd’s corner, while at the other end, St Sebastians fired just over from nearly 30 yards and then half-volleyed over from inside the box with only Saunders to beat in their best chance of the second period.
With St Sebastians seeking an equaliser, spaces were opening up for Battle to try to exploit at the other end and Dale Vinall had a goalbound shot blocked at the end of one counter-attack.
Battle gave themselves the comfort of a two-goal cushion in the 85th minute. Pickering drove forward before finding fellow substitute Gordon Cuddington and he laid the ball off for Pickering to bury an emphatic drive into the far bottom corner of the net.
St Sebastians were desperately unlucky not to pull a goal back two minutes later when a tremendous 25-yard free kick crashed against the inside of the post with Saunders a mere spectator.
The Liverpudlians must’ve known it wasn’t going to be their day at that point and Battle saw the game out with few alarms thereafter, to the delight of their two coachloads of travelling supporters.
Battle captain Tom Saunders was named man of the match and his central defensive partner Staplehurst was, remarkably, the competition’s leading scorer.
Battle: Saunders; Rafati, Staplehurst, Saunders, Gooch; Brister, Vinall, Hurst, Lindsay; Boyd, McGowan. Substitutions: Cuddington for McGowan 35, Wheeler for Gooch 52, Carrick for Brister 68, Booth for Lindsay 76, Pickering for Boyd 76, Jeffs for Hurst 89, McGowan for Cuddington 90+3. Sub not used: Utting.