Fordham pip rivals Littleport Town on penalties to clinch Junior Challenge Cup
- Credit: Archant
“I felt we were the better side over the 120 minutes, and we were very unlucky to lose this cup final on penalties,” said a disappointed Littleport Town Manager Alan White, whose side were cruelly pipped on penalties by local rivals Fordham in the final of the Junior Challenge Cup last night.
Port’s defeat dashed their dream of securing a domestic cup double, having already won the Creake Challenge Shield earlier this month.
Before the final, Fordham had already secured the league double over Littleport having won 1-0 both home and away, and were going into the cup final as clear favourites. Yet in the early stages of the game, it was underdogs Littleport who were the most threatening, but squandered chance after chance, with Nik Marsh steering his fierce shot past the post after 20 minutes.
Danny Gibbs also went close on numerous occasions, finishing the first half with a tricky but wayward overhead kick that ended up well off target.
Littleport’s Jamie Gayfer, playing in the number nine shirt for the first half, was constantly in the thick of the action, making it very difficult for Fordham’s defence.
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The second half was a repeat of the first as Littleport continued to press, with Fordham trying to catch them on the break.
19-year-old Dean Grogan picked up a booking, but could have become a hero in the dying minutes if he hadn’t placed what looked like a certain goal-bound shot past the post.
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Neither side could find a winner, and the first period of extra time witnessed both teams slugging it out for that elusive cup-clinching strike.
Fordham’s Jordan Theobald’s shot was somehow blocked in a melee of players before his colleague, substitute Nick Poole, blasted a fizzing shot over the bar.
Danny Gibbs thought he had bagged the winner for Littleport with a powerful header, only to be denied by Fordham’s goalkeeper Danny Stackhouse in the 105th minute.
Fordham’s Mitch Booth soon found his name in the referee’s book in the second period of extra time which resulted in Littleport’s Gibbs steering a header wide of the target from a set piece.
Alan White’s men looked on their way to seal a victory but again a goal bound shot from Will Rolls somehow ricocheted off both posts and out of the penalty box, and Dan Bell failed to turn in the rebound when well placed.
The two sides’ stalemate meant the final would be decided by a penalty shoot-out, and the spot kicks were just as unpredictable as the previous two hours of action.
Graham Ford easily scored first for Fordham only for Littleport’s Nik Marsh’s penalty to be superbly saved by Stackhouse in the Fordham goal.
Mitch Booth made it 2-0 before David Beeton netted Littleport’s first penalty.
Surprisingly Robbie Scrivener, who was one of Fordham’s better players, saw his penalty saved by Littleport’s goalkeeper Scott Connop.
Port’s Dean Grogan was then denied by Stackhouse who kept the score line down to 2-1 in Fordham’s favour.
Jordan Theobald made no mistake from the penalty spot, meaning that Danny Gibbs had to score otherwise the cup would be heading back to Fordham.
The youngster, one of Littleport’s outstanding players on the night, found that nerves got the better of him as he blasted his shot wide, which sealed victory for Adem Horrex’s Cambs League NMC 1B side.
Despite being substituted in the first half, Jamie Gayfer said his side was unlucky to lose out, He said: “I felt gutted for the lads who’d worked their socks off. We were the better side on the night, but that’s football I suppose.”