This game was the North Bucks League Premier Division Challenge Trophy Final. Great Horwood had already claimed the league title and were hoping to pull off a fantastic double. Hanslope had finished fourth in the league, 14 points adrift of Great Horwood, in what their Twitter account had described as a disappointing season. However in the league games between the sides honours had been shared over the season. Early on in the campaign Hanslope registered a 3-1 home win. This was countered by Great Horwood's 4-2 home win in February.
As far as this competition's concerned Great Horwood won it once before, back in the 20016-17 season. Hanslope are defending the trophy having beaten Aylesbury Vale Dynamos Dev. 7-1 at Willen Road last season. I didn't see any reference to previous wins but I'm sure someone will let me know if this statistic is incorrect,
To get to this stage Great Horwood had seen off Willen 3-2, Stewkley 2-0 and then Bletchley Scot 4-1 in the semi-final. Hanslope won 1-0 at MK Irish Athletic before beating Marsh Gibbon 3-1 away and then Grendon rangers by the same score in the semi.
Before getting into the game itself, a big thank you to the Buckingham Athletic Chairman and the NBDFL Official who were both happy to share team sheets with me before the game. It's always a lot easier to write these blogs when I have names against the shirt numbers.
After some initial sparring it was Great Horwood who created the first good opportunity when Andy Brunning wriggled free down the right before drilling a low, hard cross right across the face of the Hanslope goal. Unfortunately for Horwood no strikers was able to get a touch on the cross. The chance was a sign that Great Horwood were stepping up the pressure and two minutes later they came close again when a half clearance fell to Dale Armitage just outside the box, but his volley was just too high and wide of the target. Two more minutes passed before Horwood went even closer. A long throw-in caused chaos in the Hanslope area before Brunning was able to get a flick on the ball sending it past the outstretched hand of McKenzie, only for the ball to come back off the foot of the far post and be cleared. A minute later they hit the opposite post when a thumping header from a corner beat everyone but not the woodwork. The ball came back into play but was then scrambled off the line with the keeper beaten. Great pressure from the team in yellow, who were unlucky not to have gone ahead.
Just past the halfway mark of the half, Hanslope conjured up their first really dangerous looking attack when James Gregory's near post cross just evaded the touch of Matt Pickard. However, the Hanslope striker was to get another chance just before the half-hour mark. It began with an intricate passing move before the ball was fed into Pickard. He twisted first one way then the other, giving himself a small gap to fire through a sea of legs past an unsighted Lightfoot. 0-1, against the run of play but I doubt that would be a concern of Hanslope.
Suddenly, after being on the backfoot, Hanslope's tails were up. Three minutes after scoring Pickard came close to a second but his powerful drive went just wide of the target. Undeterred Hanslope came looking for more and, after winning a free-kick out on the left flank, Gregory again delivered a superb cross. This time it was onto the head of Michael Read who met the ball well but kept his effort too close to Lightfoot.
Great Horwood took a few minutes to recover from going behind but did stem the flow of Hanslope attacks before forcing Callum McKenzie into a good save on 36 minutes, signalling that they were far from out of the game. What they couldn't do, however, was find a way to breach the Hanslope defence before the break. At some point before the break Great Horwood also lost Frankie Tarrant to a sin-binning, although I have to say I didn't see or hear the offence myself.
FT Great Horwood 0 Hanslope 1. On the balance of possession Great Horwood would no doubt consider themselves unlucky to be behind. They could easily have been couple of goals to the good. However, if you don't take your chances there is always the possibility of being punished and that is exactly what Hanslope did to them.
Suddenly it was Great Horwood who were in the ascendency. Just before the hour mark a through ball was chased down by Brunning. The striker was going away from goal but Mckenzie, sprinting off his line, took him out and the referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. A moment of madness from the keeper but when Sam Archer stepped up to strike the spot-kick, McKenzie made amends by throwing himself to his right, making a great save.
There was a brief period where the game lulled a little which, as it happened, was probably just as well to give the spectators chance to steel themselves for the closing stages. On 69 minutes a sloppy back pass was almost seized upon by Tarrant but McKenzie just manage to get there first and clear. then a minute later Horwood substitute Glen Hawkins got a flick on to a through ball which dropped perfectly to Dale Armitage. His curled effort flew just high and wide of McKenzie's far post. It looked as if Horwood were getting back on top but that appears to be when Hanslope are at their most dangerous. Sure enough, on 78 minutes and again slightly against the run of play at the time, they got in front once more. A corner from the right was played deep towards the far post where Mike Jones was lurking to head home. 1-2.
The goal brought about a response from Great Horwood and they were very close to getting back on level terms within two minutes. A free-kick from just inside the Hanslope half, was floated into the penalty area. Once again Hawkins got the all important flick on, this time perfectly for Brunning to get his head to it from less than 10 yards out. McKenzie reacted brilliantly though, diving to his right and pushing the ball against the post and out for a corner.
That was looking like the match winning save until the 88th minute when we had a moment of some controversy. Great Horwood had a corner on their right. It was played in towards the far post where a group of players challenged for it. The ball was was diverted either by a head or foot towards the the Hanslope goal and seemed to cross the line before the keeper scooped it away. However, the referee had already blown and was signalling for a penalty. I honestly didn't see what the offence was but the Hanslope players didn't appear to protest too much. The Great Horwood players were more incensed because they felt they had had a goal ruled out in favour of the spot-kick. Captain Sam Archer stepped up again, a brave move after already missing, and with less then two minutes of normal time to go. This time, however, his aim was true. He went the same way but McKenzie was powerless to stop this one. 2-2.
We headed into the final minute of the game and the momentum now seemed to have swung to Great Horwood again. I was on the verge of texting my wife to let her know that we may have to delay dinner when Hanslope sprung the ultimate surprise. Their initial attack seemed to have come to nothing but the ball was recycled back into the middle of the area where Tom Parish was available to crash a superb volley past Lightfoot. 2-3 and cue huge celebrations from the Hanslope players, bench and supporters.
Even in this game of swings and roundabouts there was not enough time for Great Horwood to recover from the latest blow before the referee blew his whistle to signal the end.
FT Great Horwood 2 Hanslope 3. Wonderful entertainment on a glorious, sunny afternoon. Just what I needed to wind down form the stress of the morning. Thanks to both sides for their contribution to a great afternoon of football. A credit to the league. many congratulations to Hanslope who showed superb spirit throughout the game, even when they were pushed back for quite a bit of time. Commiserations to Great Horwood, it was just not their day today but I am sure they will be more than happy with their league title. For me, I've really enjoyed my forays into the North Bucks League and I will most certainly be getting to more games next season. Great to see that Hanslope keeper Callum McKenzie go the MotM award. I had him marked down as my MotM too. Well deserved.
For those who read to the end, Abbeymead Rovers beat Brockworth Albion 2-1 which means that they are still in with a chance of survival. Shoudl they win on Wednesday evening (home to Longlevens Reserves) they will survive and send down? Yes, you've got it, Brockworth Albion.
Great Horwood: 1.Lightfoot, 2. Thickbroom, 3. Ridgeway, 16. A.Armitage, 5. Woolley, 6. Tarrent, 7. Brunning, 8. S.Archer(c), 9. Howkins, 10. E.Archer, 11. D.Armitage. Subs: 12. Bingham, 14. Bowes, 15. Sutton, 4. Hawkins
Hanslope: 1. McKenzie, 2. Banks, 3. Gregory, 4. Potter, 5. J.Chilton, 6. M.Chilton(c). 7. Pickard, 8. Jones, 9. Phillips, 10. Read, 11. Rowe. Subs: 12. Kerin, 14. Hollingsworth, 15. Hopkins, 16. Parish
Ground Number: Re-visit