A James Hagon penalty just before the interval break was the dividing line between success and failure as Wilderpark won the Smiths Premier League Cup
The Park senior side thus won their first cup final for several decades, en route to the final not conceding any goals and over the seasons having been defeated at the final stage on no fewer than eight occasions.
It was a fine all round performance by the Park but in Leon Lloyd and James Hagon they had two outstanding players. Lloyd’s close ball control passing and deft change of speed down the left flank caused problems for the Hildenborough defence while Hagon was outstanding in centre midfield winning the ball in the air time and time again.
For Hildenborough, who mounted a fierce onslaught during the last 30 minutes of the tie in an effort to equalise, centre forward Leo Hall chased every loose ball at times when in possession striking his shots with considerable power and Dave Cherry who was at the heart of the action going forward.
Of the two goal keepers Park’s Christian Esposito was the busier of the two making several outstanding saves to retain his clean sheet record in the Cup run although at the other end Sean Ingleson was by no means a spectator.
The two teams along with the Officials lined up before the kick off as part of the FA Respect Programme under the black ominously looking clouds which had brought heavy periods of rain during the day which made the top playing surface greasy.
Hildenborough started brightly and were desperately unlucky not to take the lead when an Andy Jarvis header hit an upright and soon afterwards the same player struck a free kick just wide of the far post. A corner on the right taken by Cherry was headed clear by Hagon and a quick break saw the Park on the attack but Ingleson was alert enough to clear the ball into touch.
As the tie settled the Park gradually got into their pattern of play passing the ball well with good movement involving the skilful Paul Burgess, Mark Taylor, Neil Cutts and Lloyd. Although pleasing to the eye the final ball forward was so often hit too hard spinning off of the wet surface.
Hall had a fierce shot well saved by Esposito as Hildenborough countered and with their more direct approach the Park defence had to be alert to combat the attacks. Hall was again in the action when he sped down the left flank before unleashing another powerful shot which the keeper pushed away for a defender to clear.
The diminutive figure of Ben Large on the right often threatened down the right but was well marked by the ever reliable Cutts. An uncharacteristic error by David Hobby just inside his own half let in Hall, who in a chase for goal, was eased to one side and his final shot was saved.
Cutts and Lloyd together with Paul Burgess continued to put pressure on the Hildenborough defence down the left. Lloyd set up Andrew Streeter but as the striker worked himself into a good position he slipped and Hildenborough were able to clear the ball. Over on the other flank the pace of Alex Davidwas often a threat linking well with right full back Richard Dewick.
Just before the interval David switched flanks and as the ball came over to him Ingleson came off his goal line. David chipped the ball over towards the empty goal but Jarvis handled on the goal line. Amazingly, referee Ben Cooper took the decision to show Jarvis the yellow card and not a red, pointing to the penalty spot.
Hagon stepped forward in the absence of regular spot kick taker Joe McLouhglin and thumped the ball hard to the right of keeper Ingleson. As the match restarted the whistle was sounded for the interval.
The Park started the second half brightly. Streeter shot straight at the keeper and then a brilliant move almost ended with the narrow lead being extended. Paul Burgess moved the ball to Hagon whose superb diagonal pass inside Jack Cook found David. The winger took the ball forward to the bye-line before trying to pick out Streeter but a Hildenborough defender intercepted the pass.
At the other end a free kick taken by Cook was headed away by the age-less Steve Burgess and soon afterwards the tiring Streeter was replaced by McLoughlin. McLoughlin had arrived late at the ground having flown down from a business appointment in the North West and then delayed on the motorway network.
A succession of free kicks followed in favour of Hildenborough but each time the Park were able to clear the ball with Hobby and Steve Burgess at the heart of the action. The pressure continued and an in swinging corner found the head of Hall but his shot went wide.
A period of scrappy play ensued. The Park had lost control of the midfield as Hildenborough pushed more players forward. Cherry struck a left foot shot goal wards but Esposito was equal to the effort pushing the ball over the crossbar. Following a Park free kick Hildenborough broke quickly leaving the Park defence open but the impressive Lloyd tracked back 35 yards to retrieve the ball.
As the half progressed Hagon opened up the way for Lloyd who outpaced his marker before crossing the ball where it was met by David whose header flashed passed the goal. Undeterred Hildenborough pushed on with substitute Luke Stratton, Cherry and Hall combining well. Not to be outdone McLoughlin set up Lloyd but Ingleson saved.
In the closing minutes Hildenborough were awarded two free kicks both of which were wasted despite pushing players forward into the 18 yard area. Amidst joyous scenes from players and spectators the Park held out to claim victory.