Concord Rangers came from behind to win the Essex Pelly Under 18s Cup for an unprecedented third successive season thanks to second-half goals from Taylor Turner and Billy Boag.
Southend & District Junior League side Wickford Town had led from the 4th minute through Robert Lodge, but pressure after the interval paid off as the Beachboys hit back to retain the trophy.
“I didn’t think it was coming at half time,” reflected Concord boss Chris Sutherby after the game, who was delighted to call on some crucial experience at the break. “We are lucky enough to have people like Neil Harris and Danny Scopes around this group and, when Neil is in your changing room at half time giving an unbelievable team talk, it’s fantastic to have that kind of resource to back-up on.”
“At half time I thought it might slip away, but I’m delighted,” continued the boss, who took over the side mid-way through the campaign. “It’s three-in-a row and it’s never been done before, so it’s a phenomenal achievement.”
“I think you can score too early sometimes and I think they [Wickford] might’ve scored a bit too early in the game, which gave us a little bit of a chance to regroup and settle. It probably did us a favour. In the second half we were outstanding and it’s a brilliant achievement.”
That early Wickford strike saw Lodge take a touch and arrow in an angled finish. Eastern Junior Alliance team Concord looked to hit back before the break, but their best chance saw Archie McFadden rifle inches over the top.
Rangers increased their pressure in the second half, with one of their first opportunities seeing Ben Search bring a good save from Wickford goalkeeper Josh Hudson, who then dived to grab the ball at the feet of Louie Hunt.
Concord’s Alex Hernandez shot just wide of the near post following McFadden’s cut back before they levelled on 56 minutes. A good move led to Hunt’s back heel setting McFadden free and he crossed for Turner to net with a diving header.
A rasping long-range drive from Hernandez forced an excellent save from Hudson prior to Hernandez crashing a half-volley against the crossbar on the turn. The winner arrived on 72 minutes as the ball bounced around in the penalty area and Boag pounced to loop a header into the far corner.
Wickford’s George Dugdale sent a dipping shot just wide in the closing stages but, after five minutes of added time, Concord held on for their prized third Pelly Cup title.
Concord Rangers: Josh Harrison, Archie McFadden, Dan Monk, Taylor Armstrong, Cameron Harris, Kiah Froud, Teddy Rumsby, Charlie Sullivan, Louie Hunt, Billy Boag, Taylor Turner. Substitutes (repeated): Lewis Kelsey, Malley Phillips, Ben Search, Alex Hernandez, Alfie Larkin.
Wickford Town (Lions): Josh Hudson, George Neller, Jack Myles, Alfie Barr, Ryan Dunn, Robert Lodge, George Dugdale, Joe Vaufrouard, Ben Turner, Harrison Oakley, Bailey Glass. Substitutes (repeated): Charlie Matfield, Jack Polley, Josh Getty, Jamie Burgess, Luis Baverstock.
Referee: Joseph Gray (Thurrock).
Assistant Referees: Luke Scottow (Southend-on-Sea) and Cameron Scorer (Brentwood).
Fourth Official: Paul Stratton (Havering).