Wallington 6 Newcastle Chemfica 2 NFA Minor Cup Final
WALLINGTON put on a six-star performance to make history and secure the Northumberland Minor Cup on Friday after comprehensively dismantling Newcastle Chemfica.
The silverware brought a glitzy end to a season that has shone bright with stars and the last game in front of an army of Green supporters put the icing on the cake.
The victory at Whitley Park in Benton gave the Scots Gap side their first major trophy since 2001’s Northern Alliance Division Two title.
Any doubts that this was to be Wallington’s night were appeased slightly when, after 90 seconds, the smallest player on the pitch made the biggest of statements. After winning the ball on the left-hand side, Kyle Reardon turned past a defender and whipped a low ball into the danger area.
At first it looked like the ball would run harmlessly through, but out of the pocket of his marker, Josh Gilmartin sprung like a spring chicken to slam home on the half-volley. This sparked wild scenes in the stand as the goalscorer flew away in ecstasy before being mobbed by his flock of team-mates.
Fifteen minutes later the flock were at it again while the Chemfica defence were spitting feathers.
A long throw-in from Millican was not dealt with by anyone in a red shirt and after an unmarked Jordan Nellis spurned his chance at the back post, the also unmarked Sam Walton was more than happy to oblige and send the Greens cuckoo by putting them 2-0 in front.
This proved to be Nellis’ last involvement as an earlier collision with the Chemfica goalkeeper halted his progress in proceedings.
It was a disappointing end to what has otherwise been an astonishing period for the youngster, who missed four months earlier in the season due to injury and still ended up with 23 goals from 21 appearances and as the division’s top marksman. He was replaced by Dan Thompson.
Chemfica found their feet and had a spell of pressure, with a smart save from Chris Straker needed to keep them at bay. They were not to be denied for long, though, when they capitalised on a cleared corner with a strike that flew high into the goal from 30 yards.
It was the first test for Steva Cowan’s men as their opponents drew confidence from this strike and moved players further up the field in a bid to put the Green backline under more pressure.
The defence, though, marshalled outstandingly once again by Ben Fenwick, held firm and snuffed out any hint of a Chemfica revival.
And Wallington soon restored their two-goal lead. Set free by Trevor Baston down the right, John Paxton teased and tantalised his opponent before blasting past him in a sharp burst before turning in towards goal.
From a tight angle his shot cannoned off the bar only to be turned home by the poaching Thompson.
With a minute to go before the break this almost became a three-goal cushion when a short corner involving Sam Walton, Gilmartin and Reardon saw the ball fall perfectly for Nathan Williamson, but his driven shot was just deflected wide.
In the second half Chemfica’s move to two up front and a more offensive mindset forced an instant tactical reshuffle in the Green camp with Chris Moffitt being deployed in a more withdrawn role.
But it was the Greens who struck next. With an hour gone, Justin Millican linked up with his centre-half partner after Fenwick had got to the by-line and cut the ball back.
With one touch to control, he showed ice-cool bottle to then flick it with the outside of his right foot into the top corner of the goal.
It was the goal that permitted a small window of relaxation as the Greens went about enjoying themselves on this big stage.
The elegance that had etched itself to them all night, from the moment they arrived at Whitley Park kitted out in suits and club ties, didn’t waver on the pitch as the crisp interplaying between defence and midfield was as stylish in itself.
And the result was put beyond doubt when a Chemfica player sliced a clearance into his own net to make it 5-1.
Jake Walton and Mark Jewitt replaced Paxton and Williamson as Cowan utilised his highly talented squad that have all played a part in the club’s outstanding season.
As well as a best-ever third place finish in the Northern Alliance Division One, the Greens reached the quarter-final of the Divisional Cup and the semi-final of the League Cup before finally breaking through in the Minor Cup.
There was still time for Chemfica to reduce the arrears with another impressive strike from outside the box before Wallington’s swansong.
Another of the night’s stand-out performers, Sam Walton, played a pinpoint through-ball to the on-rushing Thompson – whose power and exuberance were too much for the beleaguered defender who could only fell him six yards from goal.
After a little debate, Gilmartin picked the ball up and confidently stroked it high into the goal for his second and the team’s sixth.
The final whistle came not long afterwards and committee members, ex-players, fans, coaches and players all rejoiced and savoured the moment as Alex Slack and Fenwick lifted the trophy.