A hat-trick from Paul Stevens saw Oracle Components come from behind to win the Essex Saturday Junior Cup with a thrilling extra time win over Chingford Athletic at Aveley FC’s new Parkside home.
Chingford, Junior Cup winners in 2016, raced into a two-goal first-half lead through Harry Williams and Eric Kelly, but Oracle responded either side of half time courtesy of Stevens’ first two of the night. Martin Walters fired the Hertford & District League side ahead only for a last-gasp leveller from Chingford’s Kelly to take the tie to extra time. Oracle never looked back in the additional half an hour.
Stevens completed his trio to edge his side back ahead then Cassidy Igwe’s free kick sealed the win on the stroke of the interval of extra time. “When they got the equaliser in the 90th minute, I really didn’t think we’d show the character to go on and win it in extra time,” said Oracle boss Alan Green after the game. “But we started the first half of extra time amazingly well, changed the formation and it worked.”
Chingford certainly tested Oracle and enjoyed the better of the opening and closing stages either side of a three-goal Oracle salvo. “They finished the game a lot stronger than us,” said Green honestly, adding: “There’s rumours they train twice a week and we’ve got people who train one a week and lay bricks, so we didn’t realise how that was going to go!”
“But we finished so much stronger than them it was unbelievable. We work a lot on balls into the box and getting on the end of them and finishing them off, so when you’ve got someone who is six foot four up-front it always helps.”
Oracle’s success was due in no small part to a fantastic hat-trick from Stevens, with his looping header to claw a goal back on the stroke of half time particularly impressive. Alan is a fan of his talisman: “Paul Stevens is an amazing player! He’s so good, everything he does he leads from the front and, when everyone else sees what he does, it spurs the rest of the team on.”
Alan formed the side himself nine years ago and has overseen its progress from the lower reaches of the Hertford & District League to the Premier Division. Initially based in Hertfordshire, this season saw his side enter an Essex County Cup for this first time. Walking off the 3G surface at Parkside, he claimed it couldn’t have gone much better: “No it really couldn’t have, it’s amazing!”
“We didn’t think we’d get to the final really because the teams we’ve played have been so good. To win it, and especially in this amazing stadium, is incredible. On a pitch like this you always know you’re going to get the roll of the ball and that’s going to happen no matter how long into the game it is. It’s not been turfed-up… it’s just perfect.”
But it was Chingford who made the most of the smooth surface early on and Louis Bollard saw his deflected shot dip inches wide before, from the resulting corner, Oracle goalkeeper Graeme Wiggs punched away under pressure. Oracle went on to have a good chance to take the lead as Marco Faria burst through on goal and forcing a good block from ‘keeper Sidney Stojic.
Athletic took the lead on 23 minutes. Williams fired a terrific 25-yard shot into the top corner. Chingford’s Bollard then zipped a shot inches over from range and Oracle’s Tom Aldrich teed-up Sam Pallett, whose header was tipped over by Stojic. Chingford doubled the lead on 35 minutes, Kelly sprinting through and finishing inside the near post.
Three minutes prior to the break, Oracle crucially pulled a goal back when a deep cross from Walters saw Stevens direct a brilliant looping header inside the far post from 15 yards. Chingford could’ve restored their two-goal cushion through Tom Collier, who picked out the run of Kelly, but the forward’s shot along the floor slipped just wide.
That miss was rued just moments later as Oracle snatched a 59th-minute leveller, Stevens cutting inside and firing an excellent, angled shot into the far top corner. And Oracle edged ahead with 72 played. The ball was slid across goal and Walters fired in at the far post.
Chingford ‘keeper Stojic then kept his side in the contest with a fine save from Collier’s far-post header and his side levelled with seconds left. A ball forward was held up in the area and Kelly swept home his second of the night to take the tie to another half-hour. Oracle weren’t deflated, and they enjoyed the better of extra time.
Ellis Lynch saw a shot deflected agonisingly wide and Stevens headed a corner against the crossbar before they regained the lead on 99 minutes. Walters’ cross was nodded in by Stevens to complete his hat-trick and put his side in charge. In added time at the end of the first period of extra time the win was sealed when Igwe’s low free kick squeezed over the line to add an unassailable fifth for his side.
Chingford Athletic: Sidney Stojic, Shane Baptiste, Jonny Hirst, Louis Bollard, Alex Petrache, Will Gleeson, Gary Murray, Eric Kelly, Tom Collier, Tom Kavanagh, Harry Williams. Substitutes (repeated): Sam Gleeson, David Livie, Joe Cloake, Tayo Olasanoye.
Oracle Components: Graeme Wiggs, Jamie Golledge, Tom Aldrich, Sam Pallet, Lee Hattersley, Sheldon Skeggs, Paul Stevens, Marco Faria, Jake Hammond, Daryle Wakefield, Jamie Stone. Substitutes (repeated): Neil Sharpless, Liam Adams, Martin Walters, Ellis Lynch, Cassidy Igwe.
Referee: Thomas Whay (Harlow).
Assistant Referees: Joe Alborough (Brentwood) and Matthew Friend (Barking & Dagenham).
Fourth Official: Adam Humphreys (Billericay).