Glory and despair in final countdown
SATURDAY SOCCER By STEVE GREEN AS the junior football season reaches its conclusion this week, there remains a great deal at stake in many of the Saturday divisions. Several sides have championship, promotion, cup final and relegation issues to resolve d
By STEVE GREEN
AS the junior football season reaches its conclusion this week, there remains a great deal at stake in many of the Saturday divisions.
Several sides have championship, promotion, cup final and relegation issues to resolve during the last few weeks of the campaign, but I will start with Littleport Town's attempts to finish as high as possible in the Premier Division of the Kershaw League.
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On Saturday, they beat Histon A 1-0 for the second time in a week (courtesy of an own goal), and can still finish fifth if they beat Newmarket Town Reserves in their final outing, and CU Press fail to take maximum points from their last two games.
Fordham did Littleport a huge favour in midweek by holding Press to a great 2-2 draw.
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The hosts were lucky to trail by just a single goal at the break as Press dominated the opening 45 minutes, but they looked more competitive after the restart and deservedly got back on terms midway through the second half.
Andre Novak's cross was finished off by Mark Blair on the goalline, but the visitors responded by taking the lead thanks to a 75th-minute header from a corner.
Fordham were determined to salvage something from the game, however, and in the dying seconds Daren Pryke found the net from close range to make it 2-2.
"We stuck in there and kept grafting away," said Fordham's John Pryke afterwards, adding: "Press must have the quickest forward and midfield players in the league, and they made life difficult for us early on."
THE survival prospects of Littleport Town Reserves are on a knife-edge after they yielded three points from two home fixtures last week.
They twice came from behind before going down 3-2 at home to title-chasing Barton Mills, but on Saturday beat Hemingfords United Reserves 1-0.
Substitute Ross Wilding grabbed the late goal which condemned the visitors to relegation, but revived Port's hopes of completing their great escape.
Port have one game left - at home to Buckden - and can reach 28 points, but they have the worst goal difference of the three teams who remain in trouble.
Gransden Chequers can also achieve 28 points, and are five goals better off, but they face a tough trip to Godmanchester Rovers Reserves in their final fixture.
Eaton Socon Reserves - one point ahead of the other two with a game in hand - can get 32 points, but a midweek win in their penultimate match at home to Waterbeach Reserves will see them survive.
It may well have to, because their final outing sees them visit championship-seeking Barton Mills.
Witchford '96 have an outside chance of claiming the 3B title after long-time favourites Newmarket White Lion lost their unbeaten league record to Wisbech St Mary, but the most likely scenario is that Witchford will finish third.
That is because their final match is a mouth-watering clash with Wisbech, who are level on points with Witchford following their 3-2 win at Newmarket but nevertheless still trail them on goal difference.
Witchford beat Brampton Reserves 3-0 in midweek thanks to goals from Aaron Spencer, Colin Coulson and Ben Barnwell, and on Saturday came from two down to share the spoils with relegated West Row Gunners Reserves.
That result would almost certainly have secured them promotion if Wisbech had lost, but the fact that Witchford could only draw 2-2 is largely immaterial because even a victory would have put them only two points clear of their last game opponents. A draw will suffice for Witchford.
West Row Gunners Reserves had also put up a spirited performance in midweek, despite eventually going down by the odd goal in five at Fordham Reserves.
The 2-0 half-time lead from Ollie Foreman and Grant Pearson was eradicated before substitute Daren Pryke popped up with the decisive goal.
Fordham then won 4-0 at Lakenheath Reserves thanks to Pryke (2), Foreman and the experienced Andy Pearson.
Soham United Reserves put a surprise spoke in Newmarket's championship wheel by drawing 1-1 with them in midweek, and they followed that up with an identical result against The Vine on Saturday.
Pymoor FC still have an outside chance of claiming the runners-up spot in this section after winning a 6-5 thriller against Mepal Sports, but St Ives Town A remain favourites despite losing 1-0 at Burwell Swifts.
Pymoor must win their final match at Ely Crusaders Reserves and hope St Ives lose their last outing at Swavesey Institute Reserves.
Burwell's deserved victory against St Ives was secured with a sensational Rich O'Neil free-kick 20 minutes from time.
He curled a left-foot effort over the wall and beyond the keeper's reach for the only goal of the game, although Tom Thatcher had a header ruled out for offside in the final minute.
The same 1-0 scoreline saw Ely Crusaders Reserves lose at Willingham Reserves in midweek, and on Saturday they drew 3-3 with Haddenham Rovers Reserves.
Rovers twice led after Sam Rolph had put Crusaders ahead with a 30-yard lob, but Ian Starling's double, including a late penalty, was enough for a draw.
Haddenham, who are relegated alongside Wicken Amateurs, got themselves in more hot water by disputing the referee's penalty award, and it is difficult to see where the club's second string can go from here.
Sutton United Reserves completed their season with a 6-1 win against Exning Athletic, followed by a 2-2 draw at Barton Mills Reserves.
Richard Martin (2), Sean Bristow, Lee Read, Peter Wallace and Sam Oliver were the players on target in the midweek win, and on Saturday goals from Read and Sean Bristow helped them establish a 2-0 interval lead.
The hosts recovered in the second half however, and deservedly snatched a draw - Sutton's 11th of the season.
Isleham United are relegated following a dreadful 7-1 drubbing in their final match at Sutton United.
A win would have kept them up, but they never looked like achieving that as goals from Ed Ideson (2), Sam Oliver (2), Matthew Keys (2) and Will Ludbrooke eased the home side to victory. Russell Boneham was the consolation scorer for Isleham.
Stretham Hotspurs produced one of their best displays of the season to hold high-flying St Ives Town Reserves 2-2 away from home.
Young strikers Lee Taylor and Martin Sims - with his first goal of the season - put Stretham 2-1 up at the break, but a late defensive error enabled the hosts to share the spoils.
Anthony Brumby was the lone marksman for Ely City A as his side crashed 5-1 at Fenstanton.
Full back Dave Benson suffered a head injury as Burwell Swifts Reserves conceded the opening goal in a 3-1 defeat by a well-organised Wisbech St Mary A.
Man of the match Carl Saxby equalised after winning the ball on halfway and then playing a one-two before producing a shot that was just too powerful for the goalkeeper, but Wisbech struck again before half-time.
Swifts tried manfully to get back on terms throughout the second half, but with five minutes remaining the hosts struck again to secure the points.
Little Downham Swifts Reserves lost 4-1 at home to Fenstanton Reserves, but both The Vine Reserves and Isleham United Reserves drew.
The Vine held Outwell Swifts Reserves 3-3, while at Isleham a Sam Richardson double, including a late penalty, earned a 2-2 draw with Cottenham United B.
SENIOR DIVISION B
Wins for Ely City Reserves and Ely Crusaders on Saturday meant the Senior B championship went to the Robins ahead of Fulbourn Institute Reserves.
City did their bit by beating Swavesey Institute 5-1 with goals from Jamie Gayfer (penalty), Andrew Francis, Jamie Smith - his first of the season - Dave Cornwell and Steve Pollard.
Ely Crusaders entertained City's closest rivals Fulbourn, and after an impressive performance it was the hosts who ran out 2-0 winners.
Emergency goalkeeper Michael King was relatively untroubled as Simon Farrow (penalty) and Lee Moll ended Fulbourn's title hopes with second-half goals.
Crusaders had beaten Willingham in midweek, with Moll scoring twice in a 5-0 win.
He was joined on the scoresheet by Brett Fuller, Ben Brown and Ross Knappett.
To avoid relegation, Soham United have to beat Swavesey at home on Saturday and need other results to go their way after a 1-1 draw at Haddenham Rovers.