Saturday, June 22, 2024

Football: Little Thurrock Dynamos triumph in cup

LTDDebden Sports Club 2-3 Little Thurrock Dynamos, Wednesday 15th March, Kick-Off 7:45pm, New Lodge, Essex Saturday Veterans Cup Final.

LITTLE Thurrock Dynamos sealed a 92nd-minute Essex Saturday Veterans Cup Final triumph over a resilient Debden Sports Club side at New Lodge, securing a milestone cup success for Manager Jason Plunkett in the process.

Aaron Wright’s injury time clincher sealed victory for the Greene King Essex Veterans League Premier Division title favourites after Debden had clawed themselves level on two occasions in an entertaining encounter. Lewis Passfield and Billy Davie twice put Dynamos in front, only for the prolific Tony Maslin and Player-Manager Scott Holding to equalise.

Plunkett was made to sweat all the way before collecting the trophy, but he was eventually grateful to get his hands on the silverware: “A win’s a win at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter if it’s in the 90th minute. We’ve been in positions before in finals where we’ve been 3-0 up and cruising and then take our foot off the gas, but it just didn’t happen tonight.”

“The game was a bit scrappy. There were too many fouls for both teams and I just don’t think we got the rub of the green really. I was going for my tenth win with sides in the Essex cups – that’s seven times on Sundays now and three times on Saturdays in the Essex veterans. It wasn’t until the other day that I looked it up and didn’t realise!”

In contrast, it was a first Saturday Veterans Cup Final for Debden, who last appeared in an Essex final when they won the open-age Saturday Junior Cup back in 2008. For Little Thurrock it was a return to the climax of a competition they claimed four years ago with a 2-1 victory over Heath Park. There were signs of more joy on 14 minutes when a deep free kick was knocked on and into the net by Micky Arnold, but it was disallowed for handball.

Plunkett’s team responded well, however, and built and advantage eight minutes later through Passfield. A dead ball was cleared from danger by the Debden rearguard but only as far as the Little Thurrock wide man, who rifled home from long range. Holding’s sixth-placed side sought a quick response, applying pressure around the half-hour point.

Firstly, a flowing move saw Maslin wrap his right boot around the ball from the edge of the box and bounce an effort onto the post and wide. Then it was time for Dynamos goalkeeper Marc Baker to show his prowess and brilliantly push an exocet Holding free kick wide at full stretch. He was also called upon to tip the subsequent corner onto the crossbar. But there was no stopping Maslin’s 32nd-minute effort from distance, which brought Debden level.

At the other end, ten minutes before the interval, Wright got on the end of a free kick and guided a low header across the face of goal and wide. Then Dynamos did regain their advantage on the stroke of half time. Scott Johnson and Davie engineered a situation where they were both bearing down on Debden’s defender-turned-goalkeeper, Jon Wheeler. Johnson squared to Davie, who tapped home from a few yards.

“I thought it might have been a bit easier,” said Jason of the first half. “With vets football you need to be able to rotate and bring subs on. I could see their back four were quite aging and they were tiring, so I thought we would get a goal in the end. Then at half time we were 2-1 up and I thought we’d go to 4-1 or 5-1. I thought that’s where the game was going to go.”

Before the match, Debden boss Holding, a County Cup winner as a youngster with Ridgeway Rovers, claimed he had a score to settle with Little Thurrock having lost out in unfortunate fashion earlier in the campaign. He went about resolving this by playing a major part in the second equaliser, sending in a dangerous, 75th-minute in-swinging corner.

From the bustle in the goalmouth which ensued, the ball was adjudged to have hit the arm of a Little Thurrock defender. Referee Paul Hever, officiating in his final match before retirement, pointed to the spot. Holding took responsibility for burying the penalty. “That puts you on the back foot then, and you’re a bit nervy,” Plunkett reacted. “But I always thought we’d have enough to just go on and nick that goal, or even more.”

He knew fitness was a key to his large squad’s achievements this season, and their ability to keep going right to the end paid dividends on this occasion. Two minutes into injury time a dead ball delivery was dropped into the danger zone and Wright crucially smashed home from under the crossbar. A relieved Plunkett says his unbeaten team’s main focus will now be facing Debden again in a League Cup match later in the season.

“I think the title is over and done with,” he said, with his team sitting eight points clear at the top. “We’ve got six games left against the bottom six teams, so we haven’t got the hard games left. We’ve got to move on and just try and win things. I’m here to win things. We’ve got to play Debden in the Semi-Finals of the Premier Division Cup and, if we get through that, then the final’s on a Saturday, so we’ll probably party hard and strong!”

Debden Sports Club: Jon Wheeler, Scott Holding, Andrew Binet, Martin Loe, Ian Hutchinson, Tim Cole, Tony Maslin, Andy Taylor, Michael Carter, Stephen O’Brien, Scott Falconer. Substitutes (repeated): Paul Hobbs, Joe Mulroue.

Little Thurrock Dynamos: Marc Baker, Keith Martin, Sam McCarthy, Billy Davie, Paul Cobb, Lewis Passfield, Scott Johnson, Chris McNaney, Micky Arnold, Paul Sullivan, Tony Relf. Substitutes (repeated): Aaron Wright, Ross Allen, Dave Moran, Andy Morris, Gavin Cockayne.

Bookings: Debden: Maslin (85, foul). Little Thurrock: Arnold (15, foul).

Referee: Paul Hever (Colchester).

Assistant Referees: John Farrant (Basildon) and Michael James (Brentwood).

Fourth Official: Andrew Snell (Clacton-on-Sea).

Attendance: 154.

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