“There’s no better way to win!” beamed Concord Rangers Manager Darron Polyblank after the final whistle as his side scored twice deep into added time to snatch the Essex Cordell Under 13s Cup with a dramatic win over Billericay Town.
Concord had led in the first half through Samuel Ratcliff, but Billericay’s Jude Collins capitalised on a defensive slip to level on the stroke of half time. Tomi Sotiminu slotted Town ahead after the interval and almost four minutes of added time had elapsed when parity was restored again through Jack Doyle’s header. But there was still time for Captain Bobby Brayley to sensationally nick the contest for Rangers.
There was certainly a never-say-die attitude about the young Beachboys as they had looked set to lose out to a talented Billericay side. An honest Polyblank reflected: “I was going bald before the final so I’m definitely going bald now! But it just shows what the boys are about and they never give up - as simple as that. Billericay played really well and, to be fair, their midfield was better than ours in the first half and I think we turned it around a bit in the second half.”
Rangers Assistant, Jay Hockey, added: “We’re probably weren’t at our best, but we did say to the boys before the game that finals can be cagey affairs, whoever you’re playing. After two mistakes you think it isn’t going to be your day. We hit the post near the end and you kind of think it’s just not going to happen, but that’s what these boys are about.”
“Even in the rounds to get here, we’ve come through difficult moments or when it’s not gone our way. To score two goals like that is great. When we levelled we wondered ‘do we settle for extra time or leave the big man up’ and we left him up and nicked the winner. We feel we get good delivery from the right winger and we thought ‘why not?’ and stuck it in there to see what happened. And the rest is history!”
Just two minutes into the game Concord’s dangerous front man Ratcliff brought a good save from Billericay goalkeeper Rio Sorhaindo before Ratcliff went one better and slotted his side ahead on 20 minutes, taking the ball past Sorhaindo and calmly sliding it inside the near post. Ratcliff tested Sorhaindo again from range and a first chance for Billericay saw Sotiminu’s low effort gathered well by Concord goalkeeper Jack Bruce.
Billericay’s next opening produced a 35th-minute equaliser as Collins latched onto a loose ball and finished well into the bottom corner. Seven minutes after the re-start the tie had been turned on its head. Sotiminu reacted sharply in the area to fire Billericay ahead from close range. With time ticking away, Billericay stopper Sorhaindo tipped a shot onto the post, but Concord refused to be denied.
Doyle’s leveller saw him head in a Samuel Nagle corner deep into added time before the winner arrived within a minute as Brayley turned the ball home from six yards to complete the turnaround and late joy for Concord. Afterwards, Hockey was keen to praise both the quality of the match and his side’s opposition.
He summarised: “Because they’re still transitioning into eleven-a-side football, the bigger pitch makes it that little bit more open and end-to-end. It’s a great way to win, and Billericay are good rivals of ours. They have been since Under 9s and I’m sure there are more finals to come. You need teams who challenge you year-on-year and they probably make us better and we probably make them better. It’s a really healthy rivalry.”
Billericay Town: Rio Sorhaindo, Zayaan Rashid, Pierce Knight, Tom Anderson, Fiz Jaiysimi, Kaan Tarhan, James Webb-Wood, Oliver Ladlow, Daniel Guy, Freddie Hesketh, Tomi Sotiminu. Substitutes (repeated): David Oakes, Jude Collins, Daniel Luckling.
Concord Rangers: Jack Bruce, Ruben Vapiwala, Bobby Brayley, Callum Knowlden, Samuel Nagle, Vincent Clarke, Charlie Bott, Lucas Polyblank, Freddie Hockey, Liam Wagstaff, Samuel Ratcliff. Substitutes (repeated): Jack McCarthy, Ryan Donnelly, Jack Doyle, Freddie Crowe, Calum Diliway.
Referee: Stephen Davies (Thurrock).
Assistant Referees: Jake Elwis (Havering) and Louis Ambrose (Thurrock).
Fourth Official: Abdul Wahid (Redbridge).