A three hour round trip on a Friday night to see a charity cup final. Madness you say? Not at all. It was an opportunity too good to miss. This match had all of the ingredients that anyone could want from a game of football. To begin with, it was a local derby between two sides that were, until Sports sealed the Division One title by 21 points, separated by a division. Sports, the underdogs, if you could call them that, were and are managed by a former captain of Northern Star. They also had a number of former Star players in their ranks. Northern Star, however, were the current cup holders and had not conceded a goal on their way to the final. Finally, the game was being played at In2itive Park, home of Yaxley FC, a stadium that I had not visited before. So, after a quick dinner, I set off for on the journey to Cambridgeshire.
Yaxley is a village just South of Peterborough and just North of the village of Stilton, the home of the famous cheese. In2itive Park is on the Southern edge of the village and is accessed down a narrow lane. Being a cup final, by the time I arrived, the car park was full and they had opened up an adjacent field as an overflow. There was clearly a decent sized crowd present and, by the time I got into the ground, the game was already a minute or so old.
The stadium is accessed through a single turnstile pretty much on the halfway line. The state of the art 3G pitch is, of course, completely flat. The facilities are all on the car park side of the ground. A tea and snack bar is adjacent to the turnstile, next to that is a covered seating area and then in the corner of the ground is the clubhouse, players and officials facilities and the toilet block. The dug outs are on the far side, opposite the entrance.
Despite being the lower ranked of the teams and, as such, the underdogs, Sports were actually tipped by many to be way too strong for Star. They had already won a League Cup game 3-0 earlier in the season but Star were reduced to 10 men and it was at Sports home ground. This game was also to be Sports' first competitive game on a 3G surface whereas Star, who play in the same division as Yaxley, had experience of the surface.
Having said all that, it was Sports who raced out of the blocks, pegging Star back almost from kick off. with the exception of a couple of Star raids, the game was being played almost exclusively in the Northern Star half of the pitch. However, despite all of their possession and pressure, The Turbines could not find a way through to goal. Time and again they put together some lovely passing moves, aided by the playing surface, but each time the final ball was slightly off or a Star defender got a vital touch at the last second.
Just as we were wondering if Sports would be made to pay for not taking advantage of their superiority, they finally managed to put a chance away. On 41 minutes Vieira latched onto a through ball, raced towards goal and deftly slotted home into the keepers right-hand corner. So it was that Sports took a deserved lead into the interval. The only real surprise of the half was that they hadn't scored more than one.
Vieira almost grabbed his second of the game when he headed against the bar and then smashed the rebound wastefully over. Shortly afterwards Star keeper Dan George had to be at his bets to turn another shot against his left-hand post and out for a corner.
The respite, however, was relatively short-lived. A ball down the Sports left flank was picked up by Vieira who then drove into the box, cut along the by line and fired past George from a tight angle. It was a good finish but he really shouldn't have been allowed to cut into the box so easily. At 2-0 the game was pretty much over in my eyes. Star were still trying their best to push forward when they could but had the air of a team that was at the end of a long, hard season. Sports were dominant now and proceeded to hit the post a further couple of times, with Vieira again being denied his hat trick.
Six minutes after Vieira's second, Sports made it 3-0 with a Gibbs header that hit the underside of the bar before it was cleared. The assistant on the far side flagged immediately that the ball had goner over the line. There wasn't too many protests from the Star defenders, so my guess is that it was well over the line.
To their credit, Star heads did not drop and 7 minutes later they got some consolation when Gibbs curled in a wonderful free-kick from 25 yards. Probably the goal of the game.
Sports though went back up the other end and, only two minutes after conceding, regained their three goal advantage. A lovely ball was slipped through for substitute Lawlor to run onto. He finished with some ease, low to George's right hand post.
There was still time for Vieira to, once again, almost get his hat-trick but, in the end, he had to make do with the two goals.Newly promoted Sports, on this showing, can look forward to a productive season in the United Counties Premier league.
So the rather impressive Hinchingbrooke Trophy has blue ribbons on it this year and will make the short journey across Peterborough to Lincoln Road. A decent crowd of 304 had witnessed an entertaining final in which both sides played their part. Credit also must go to Yaxley FC for their hospitality in hosting the final at their stadium.
Peterborough Sports - @pslfc
Peterborough Northern Star - @pnsfc_official
Yaxley FC - @yaxleyfc