Little Common Football Club claimed its first ever piece of Macron Store Southern Combination League first team silverware tonight (Wednesday).
The Commoners lifted the Division One Challenge Cup following a 4-3 victory over Oakwood in what turned out to be a dramatic final at Newhaven FC’s Trafalgar Ground.
Common were three-up and seemingly cruising at half time, but Oakwood fought their way back into it during the final quarter and even scored after having two players sent-off in added time.
League leaders Common are 60 points and 16 places above Oakwood in the league, and won the two league meetings between the clubs 6-1 and 5-1.
A similar scoreline looked on the cards as Common took charge in the first half. They took just eight minutes to open their account, full-back Ryan Paul rising above everyone else to head Wes Tate’s deflected cross into the corner of the net.
Sam Ellis pulled up with a recurrence of his recent hamstring injury shortly afterwards, but that didn’t prevent Common doubling their advantage in route one fashion in the 18th minute.
A long free kick by goalkeeper Matt Cruttwell from his own penalty area was flicked on by Lewis Hole and Tate ran clear of the Oakwood defence before coolly lobbing the goalkeeper.
Common were playing some good football on a firm and tricky surface, and added a third goal in the 38th minute. Tate played a lovely pass to put Hole in on goal and he poked a neat finish into the bottom corner for his 40th goal of an amazing season.
Cruttwell was untroubled during a first half in which Oakwood’s most meaningful attempt at goal was a 25-yard free kick which sailed over the crossbar.
There was no goalmouth incident during the opening 20 minutes of the second period on a chilly and breezy night, and the game appeared to be drifting towards a predictable outcome.
Hole hooked the ball just wide following a goalkeeping error and shortly afterwards Oakwood pulled one back in the 69th minute. A driven cross from the left-hand side of the area was turned home from close range by Gerald Manville.
Cruttwell was hurt in a scuffle with Manville as the Oakwood substitute tried to gather the ball from the net to restart the game quickly, but carried on after treatment.
A terrific 25-yard free kick by Common player-manager Russell Eldridge crashed against the outside of the post and rebounded to safety, while Hole headed just wide of the far post from Tate’s corner.
Oakwood, though, grabbed a second goal in the 83rd minute. Two Oakwood players went through on goal with Common’s defence out of position and one unselfishly teed up Manville to score his second in 15 minutes. Paul was booked for protesting immediately afterwards.
Suddenly it was very much game on and Common seemed to be getting somewhat edgy, but they eased their nerves with a fourth goal in the first minute of added time.
Eldridge’s free kick from just inside Oakwood’s half made its way through to man of the match Adam Smith near the byeline on Common’s right. He pulled the ball back for Hole to score his second of the night with that trusty left boot of his.
That appeared to be that, but there was still plenty more drama to come. An Oakwood substitute was shown a straight red card having raised his hands at Hole, who went down holding his face, and one of his team-mates was given a second yellow, presumably for throwing the ball at Smith in the melee which followed.
Despite being down to nine men, Oakwood made it 4-3 in the seventh minute of added time. A long free kick from inside Oakwood’s half into Common’s penalty area was headed home by midfielder Clive Piller.
The final whistle sounded as soon as Common kicked-off, though, and there was joyous scenes afterwards as the players celebrated with the trophy in front of friends, families and supporters.
Common: Cruttwell, Paul, Parsons, Ward, Maynard, Eldridge, Tate, Saville (Winter 80), Hole, Ellis (Harley 15), Smith (Walker 90+6).
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