The Creake Charity Shield is run by the Cambridgeshire FA. However, the Final was to be held at Newmarket Town, which is just about in Suffolk. Not that it matters. The Tristel Stadium is situated on Cricket Field Road, just to the South East of Newmarket town centre, no more than half a Rowley mile from the famous racecourse. A considerable amount of work has been done on the ground in recent years. not least the installation of an artificial pitch in 2016 and the subsequent pitch improvements this season. There is a good sized car park just off Cricket Field Road, adjacent to the ground. Entrance is through a single turnstile which opens onto a path that leads slightly downhill behind the Cricket Field Road end goal, and onto the main concourse around the ground. On the town side of the ground you can find the majority of the facilities. A 144 seater stand sits alongside the main clubhouse and snack bar. There is also a covered, designated smoking/vaping area alongside the main stand. Opposite the clubhouse there is an electronic scoreboard attached to the fencing between the ground and car park. This is directly behind the dugouts. A new-looking green meshed fence surrounds the playing surface. It's a very welcoming ground, from the man on the gate, the young lady in the snack bar, and the stewards I encountered who were keen to point me in the right direction to find a team sheet. These I eventually go then I encountered the Newmarket PA man who allowed me to take a photo of them before he made the announcements. All told, a great ground which has the feel of a club that is going places. Definitely worth a visit.
It's not been too easy to find a lot of history about the Creake Charity Sheild. FA Full-Time records only go back to the 2005-06 season. However, I did see a photo of Newmarket Town with the Shield in the 1920-21 season, so I concluded that it has been around for over 100 years. What I did discover is that the current holders were Chatteris Town who beat Great Shelford Reserves 3-0 on penalties after the sides drew 1-1.
The two sides contesting the final tonight, West Wratting Reserves and Wimblington, as far as I could see (of course I could be wrong) have not won the trophy before. Both sides play at the Division 1 level of the Cambridgeshire League, two divisions below the Premier League, which is Step 7 of the pyramid. Division 1 is split into two divisions, 1A and 1B. West Wratting currently head Division 1A on goal difference from Abington United. However, they also have five games in hand and have only lost once this season, their opening day 1-0 defeat at home to Cottenham United. Wimblington are top of Division 1B, also on goal difference. They have four games in hand on second-placed Buckden. Both teams are odds-on to gain promotion this season.
The road to the Final for West Wratting saw them see off Barrington 7-0, then win 4-2 at Gamlingay United before beating Longstanton 4-1 in the Quarter-Final. Finally they defeated Fenstanton 2-1 in the Semi-Final.
Wimblington receieved a bye in the first round before beating Needingworth United 3-2. Next up was a 3-1 defeat of Hemingfords United Reserves and then a 2-1 win against Mott Macdonald in the Semi.
There would be no extra-time if the game ended in a draw, it would go straight to penalties, which was something of a relief to hear, considering I was looking at a 2 hour drive home after the game.
Wimbligton, in their blue kit, got us under way, but very soon found themselves on the back foot as the reds of West Wratting settled into the game the better. Only two minutes into the game they broke down their left side, the ball was fed across the edge of the box to the unmarked Owen Longley but he could only put his effort well over the bar. Wimblington were having to soak up quite a bit of pressure and the stress began to show in their tackling. Only 5 minutes were on the clock when Mark Masterson picked up the first yellow of the game for a wild lunge out on the touchline. Again, within the opening 10 minutes, West Wratting had another opportunity when they were awarded a free-kick quite centrally, just outside the box. Captain Cody Fraiser stepped up but his attempt was high and wide of the mark. So much West Wratting possession but they still had not managed to seriously test Nathan martin in the Wimblington goal. Wratting came closer still in the 22nd minute when, after winning a free-kick just outside the area on the right flank, the ball was delivered across the area where Finlay Plant rose to send a header skimming off the top of the bar.
Two minutes before the half-hour mark, Wimblington finally got into the West Wratting half. A long ball down the middle was contested by captain Alex Knowles and a couple of defenders. Knowles managed to feed the ball wide to Nick Ward, who broke a tackle before firing low past Sean Sage. 0-1. Wimblington's first attempt at goal and they led.
West Wratting unshaken, continued where they left off, pushing the blues backwards but, quite extraordinarily, seven minutes later Wimblington made it two with their second attempt. Martin Porter climbed well to get a head onto a free-kick delivered form the right. His header was too good for Sage and suddenly it was 0-2.
Whilst unbowed after the first goal, the second one seemed to take some of the wind out of the West Wratting sails. They'd taken the game to their opponents for over half and hour and found themselves two goals adrift with only a few minutes to go before the break. They did manage to bring a very good diving save out of Martin just before the whistle, but couldn't get that all important goal back.
HT West Wratting Reserves 0 Wimblington 2. I'm not sure even Wimblington know how they have managed to be two up at half-time. West Wratting had the majority of the ball and have spent a vast portion of the game in the Wimblington half. However, they only really stretched Martin once or twice. The Blues, in contrast, had two chances and took both. You have to admire their economy. I'm not convinced it was their game plan, but it had worked so far.
Bang on the hour mark, West Wratting finally gave themselves a lifeline when newly introduced substitute
Taz Chrishango tried his luck from the edge of the box with a low drive. Nathan Martin seemed to have it covered but the ball somehow squirmed past him and over the line. 1-3
West Wratting could smell blood now. Three minutes after getting a goal back they were awarded a penalty for a trip on Lovell. Taz Chrisango stepped up and sent Martin the wrong way to grab his and Wratting's second of the night. 2-3. Now we had a real game on our hands and it looked as if only one team was likely to score again.
Sure enough, with 73 minutes on the electronic scoreboard and Wratting on the edge of the Wimblington area, the referee's attention was drawn by a flagging assistant. He had spotted a tug on a red shirt. After some consultation the referee pointed to the spot and Chrishango had the chance to get his hat-trick and pull his side level. He went the same way but this time Martin was equal to the effort, producing a great save to keep the Blues in front.
The game was no longer as one-sided as the first half. West Wratting threw everything forward in search of the equaliser but Wimblington were looking dangerous too, especially as legs tired on both sides. A lovely bit of control and volley from John Camfield was probably the closest West Wratting came to getting back on terms as Wimblington managed to see out the remaining minutes.
FT West Wratting Reserves 2 Wimblington 3. From a neutral's point of view, a very watchable game of football. Congratulations to Wimblington on their victory. A photo finish at the home of horse-racing. West Wratting can also be proud of their efforts and the part they played in a great game of football. Thanks to both teams for providing great entertainment. Thanks also to Newmarket Town for providing a venue worthy of a Final. If you would like to catch either of these teams in action, and I seriously recommend that you do, they are both back on the league title trail next weekend. West Wratting Reserves pay a visit to bottom side Steeple Morden. The sides have yet to meet this season. West Wratting will be looking to regain their top spot, lost to Barrington over this weekend. They are only a point back and have a colossal seven games in hand. Wimblington were also knocked off the top after Buckden won 4-2 at Exning United. They are now three points adrift with five games in hand. They also have an away trip to the bottom side in the division, Eynesbury Rovers Reserves. They have met before this season, Wimblington running out 3-1 winners courtesy of goals from Dan Harradine(2) and Dale Richardson.
West Wratting Reserves: Sage, Cutts, Camfield, Hunt, Boyce, Fisher, Longley, Plant, Lovell, Fraiser(c), Thompson. Subs: Whitro, Martin, Chrishango, Robson, French
Wimblington: Martin, Wadsworth, Masterson, Porter, Stacey, Smith, Ward, Harradine, Knowles(c), Matthews, Richardson. Subs: Crass, Andreau, Ransome, Parker, White
Ground Number: 355