Click here to see all the official match images at www.dephoto.biz/essexfa.
Two goals inside as many second-half minutes from Lewis Francis and Bill Texeira saw Palmers beat Imara 2-0 to lift the Essex Sunday Premier Cup.
For Palmers, it was the perfect tonic after suffering defeat to Marquis in last season’s Junior Cup Final as the Thurrock Association Sunday League side overcame a team already crowned champions of the Basildon & District Sunday League.
Palmers had enjoyed the best of the most of the match, but the tie remained locked goalless at the interval. Imara’s Marc Gorbell was sent off shortly after the re start before Palmers hit with 73rd and 74th-minute strikes to seal the victory.
“I think we fully deserved the win in the end and I don’t even think the sending off was a turning point to be honest - we were on top the whole time,” reflected Palmers Manager Lee Thompson after the match at Great Wakering Rovers FC’s home. “I’m absolutely over the moon, we played superbly. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
The boss can certainly be proud of his side, who started with intent and could’ve been ahead earlier if not for some fine saves from Imara goalkeeper Grant Hayward. “We could’ve killed the game off by half time,” reflected Thompson.
“We wanted to start from the off and that’s exactly what we did. Literally from the first moment to the last we were on it and we didn’t give them any time, and we didn’t let them play any football. We just played our game and the plan worked to perfection. I’m absolutely buzzing!”
The game was starting to tick away before his side finished an opportunity and Lee did have some concern: “I was starting to get worried. We missed three or four really good chances and you’re wondering if it’s going to happen.”
“They scored and it was offside and you think that’s going to be the turning point, but we kicked on from there and got the two goals in the last 15 minutes or so. We then had a nervy last five minutes, but we really did hang on.”
Palmers’ intent was clear early on and, with just 7 minutes played, Texeira smacked a shot against the crossbar. Twice the same player then got through on goal only to be denied by a good stop from Hayward, with Imara’s best chance of the first half seeing Bertie Brayley tee-up Brad Warner, whose shot was blocked.
The red card came on 50 minutes, but the opening stages of the second period were otherwise quiet before Palmers’ Francis dragged a shot wide and Imara’s Brayley volleyed just past the post. The breakthrough then arrived as a ball in from the left was side-footed home by Palmers’ Francis. It was swiftly two when Texeira chipped home a fine finish to send his side delirious.
Palmers saw out the game and Francis volleyed just wide from Josh Knowles’ cross in stoppage time as they made amends in perfect style for 2018’s Junior Cup reverse. “Can’t beat this!” beamed boss Thompson afterwards. “We got outclassed last year, but someone else felt our punishment, I think, and we’ve dished one out this time.”
Imara: Grant Hayward, Marc Gorbell, Craig Penn, Reece Brandon, Peter Warner, Bertie Brayley, Billy Evans, Connor Willers, Ricky Evans, Ben Sartain, Brad Warner. Substitutes (repeated): Jamie Mitchell, Lenny John Jenkins, Omar Mahmood, Craig Byrne, Paul Shave.
Palmers: Jack Carter, Elliott Gresham, Callum Bloss, Lee Henry, Nick Hope, Shane Carret, Bill Texeira, Brad Webb, Josh Sole, Brad Fox, Lewis Francis. Substitutes (repeated): Nick Horne, Josh Knowles, Martin Llewellyn, Asa Lawrence, Charlie Vanner.
Referee: Eugene Robinson (Chelmsford).
Assistant Referees: Charlie Roberts (Havering) and Chris Girdlestone (Harlow).
Fourth Official: Simon Caton (Rochford).