The Senior Cup Final would be contested by last season's winners The HollyBush FC, and four times previous winners, Hailey FC (2006, 2008, 2010, 2011).
In this season's competition Hollybush have already beaten league champions Charlbury 3-1 away from home and Kirtlington 3-2 in the Semi-Final. Hailey have played both of their games away from home, winning 2-1 at Spartan Rangers and 4-2 at Tower Hill.
Hailey came into the game after already picking up some silverware on the same ground two weeks ago, winning the Fred Ford Cup with a 2-1 victory over Kirtlington.
Both sides had seen a fairly successful league campaign with Hollybush currently in second spot and Hailey in third. The latter having a game remaining that, should they win it, would mean they would take second spot from their rivals. In league terms Hollybush have the meanest defensive record in the division conceding just 23 goals in 18 games, whilst Hailey are the second highest scorers with 47 in their 17 outings. Both league meetings finished 0-0 which indicates that this could be a tight affair too.
As alluded to with the two league meetings this season, the opening encounters of this game showed that there wasn't going to be too much between these sides. It was definitely a slow burner with neither side being able to establish themselves in the game.
It was 15 minutes into the match before we saw the first meaningful strike on goal, Dan King's effort from just outside the box forcing Rayfield to get down quickly at his near post. There followed another period of battling between the sides, with little in the way of serious goalmouth incidents, except when Rayfield misjudged a cross and the ball fell to Hollybush striker Craig Mays, but he couldn't keep his shot below the crossbar.
Just after the half-hour mark Hailey suddenly produced a flowing, one-touch move that was without doubt the best piece of action in the game so far. Unfortunately for them the final effort from Travis O'Connor sailed narrowly wide of the mark. With the clock ticking down towards half-time, Hailey were almost gifted the lead when Matt Howard dropped a right-wing corner but luckily for the Hollybush keeper there was a defender on hand to hook the ball off the line and to safety. The fumble seemed to shake the keeper and, shortly afterwards, he fumbled another ball giving Hailey striker Jack Wood a chance which was just about snuffed out by a saving tackle from a Hollybush defender.
HT The Hollybush FC 0 Hailey 0. Not the most entertaining of games, but still the odd glimpse of possible better things to come. Cagey was how I described it on Twitter and I can't think of a better description.
Back down the other end and Hollybush appealed for a penalty after two players came together in the box. The referee, however, remained unmoved.
On 57 minutes, however, the man in the middle did have a decision to make as Dan King flew into a high challenge in midfield, leaving a Hailey player in a heap. The referee had no hesitation in pulling out a red card. Despite plenty of protestations from the Hollybush players, the referee had very little option but to send off King. From the resulting free-kick, Kimber again forced Howard into a decent save, the ball bobbling up in front of the keeper at the last moment.
However, there was nothing that the revitalised Hollybush keeper could do a minute later. A left-wing corner was met by Sean King who powered a header into the net. 0-1
At this point with Hollybush a man and a goal down, Hailey were expected to push on and win comfortably. However, try as they might, they could not find a way to kill the game off and, after 79 minutes, they were punished for it.
Hollybush earned a free-kick on the left, midway into the Hailey half. The ball was delivered into the box, eventually finding its way to Daniel Brearley who prodded it over the line for the equaliser. 1-1
Shocked into action by the equaliser, Hailey looked to take advantage of their extra man. Kimber again tested Howard with a free-kick with the Hollybush stopper coming out on top again. Hailey had their own penalty shout, but the referee waved play on and the then, inside the last minute, Kimber was set free on the right, driving into the box but again, Howard pulled out all of the stops to make a vital save and take the game into extra-time.
FT Hollybush 1 Hailey 1. You had to admire the effort from Hollybush who managed to stay in the game at a man and a goal down before forcing an equaliser from a set play, but extra-time was going to be tough with a man light.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, Hailey began to dominate play in extra-time, being a player short was beginning to take its toll on Hollybush. However, Hailey were once again struggling to break through the final line of Hollybush defending, that is until the 99th minute when Hollybush captain Carl Austin was adjudged to have fouled a Hailey striker in the box. The incident happened on the side of the pitch where I was standing and, I have to say that, although it was a soft penalty, it was the correct decision. Austin went to ground and the Hailey striker went over him. Not a deliberate foul by any means, but a foul nevertheless. Jack Wood waited for the protestations to die down before stroking the ball home to make it 2-1 to Hailey.
There was still time in the first period for Howard to make a superb fingertip save from a Buckingham drive to keep his side in with a slim hope.
HT in ET. Hollybush 1 Hailey 2. Hailey had the advantage and would kick down the slope against 10 men for the final 15 minutes.
With Hollybush hanging on you felt that it is a matter of time before Hailey killed the game off but, again, the Hoops just couldn't muster that final blow. With that said, Hollybush also didn't seem to be able to put together any meaningful attacks and it looked as if the game would just draw to an uneventful conclusion.
Then, out of nowhere, Hollybush managed to summon up the effort to push up the slope one final time. There was a barely a minute of extra-time remaining when, after some hesitation in the Hailey box, Mays found himself the meat in a Hailey sandwich, with Rayfield bringing the striker down. Penalty to Hollybush. Mays picked himself up and slotted home the spot-kick and we were all square again at 2-2.
FT in ET. Hollybush 2 Hailey 2. Penalties to decide the winner.
Penalties (Scores in brackets, Hollybush first)
Hollybush take the first penalty and score. (1-0)
O'Connor for Hailey, scores. (1-1)
Bryant for Hollybush hits the bar (1-1)
Kimber for Hailey. Howard gets a hand to it but can't stop it. (1-2)
Mays, who scored the late equalising penalty, scores for Hollybush (2-2)
Tinson for Hailey, but Howard saves well. (2-2)
Stubbs scores for Hollybush (3-2)
Jordan Cormack levels it up for Hailey (3-3)
Hughes for Hollybush but Royfield makes the save (3-3)
Jack Wood scores to win it for Hailey. (3-4)
Congratulations to Hailey FC, Witney & District Senior Cup Winners, 2018-19
Hollybush: Howard, Stubbs, Robinson, Brearley, Austin, King, Threlfell, Hughes, Rogers, Mays, Bryant. Subs: Grant, E.Williams, Brookes, R. Williams
Hailey: Royfield, Foster, Tinson, Mutch, Wood, King, O'Connor, Cormack, Kimber, Buckingham, Gregory. Subs: Wright, Slimani, Evans, Burnell, Webb
Ground Number: Re-visit