Second-half goals from Sam Sollosi and José Espinoza earned Buckhurst Hill a first ever BBC Essex Saturday Premier Cup title as Catholic United were defeated 2-0 at Thurrock FC’s Ship Lane home.
Relegated from the Premier Division of the ProKit UK Essex Olympian League last season, Hill have bounced back in style, dropping just three points all season in winning the Division One title. They capped off a fine campaign as with a 21st-successive win and bringing the County Cup to their Roding Lane base. It’s been some campaign for their opponents Catholic, too.
The Hoops won the Anagram Records Trophy just two days previously and a hectic end to the season would ultimately bring Olympian Premier Division success. But, on the hottest May Day Monday on record, it was Buckhurst Hill who will feel they deserved their victory having enjoyed the lion’s share of the opportunities during the final.
They finally broke the deadlock on 68 minutes, having been denied firstly by Catholic goalkeeper Louis Godwin-Green, who kept out Espinoza’s penalty, and then by a post as Sam Sollosi came within a whisker of giving his side the lead. “We had a game plan,” said Buckhurst Hill boss Mark Williams after the game.
“We knew they were really good in the air and we tried not to give away set pieces as we knew that would hurt us. We just tried to keep moving and they let us have the ball from the off and we stayed in the game.”
“They’ve had a lot of games recently and they’re obviously a decent side who deserve to be at the top of their league, and they won the cup on Saturday. I thought, if we just bide our time and get in at half time level pegging, then we could find time and space.”
Chances did come for Mark’s side, but some were squandered with the game still goalless, including Espinoza’s spot kick just three minutes after the interval. “With the penalty, he normally walks up and absolutely smashes the ball home, so when he strolled up I thought that’s a bit different,” said Mark, adding: “But, at the end of the day, we saw it through.”
“I didn’t think one goal was going to be enough and, when we got that goal, they had a very, very good chance. And then, on a number of other occasions, perhaps we should’ve sealed it. But, credit to their goalkeeper, he is a superb player. We’re just happy to win it, really. It’s the first time in our history and it doesn’t matter if you win it 1-0 or 2-0, it’s fantastic.”
The first real chance of the match went to Buckhurst Hill’s Joe Re, who brought the first of a number of good saves from Catholic ‘keeper Godwin-Green, who was soon called upon to deny both Espinoza and Steve Townsend.
Hill’s lively full-back Re then brought another good stop from Godwin-Green as he pushed the ball wide of the right-hand post. Liam Foster also teed-up Sam Sollosi, who fired just over the top. Catholic’s best chance of the first period saw Mike Sammut’s effort gathered on the goal line by Hill ‘keeper Daniel Blockley.
The missed spot kick arrived early in the second half, Godwin-Green pushing away Espinoza’s attempt after Josh Addinall was bundled over. Sam Sollosi also hit the post before finding the target to give his side the lead, exchanging passes with brother Nathan before firing into the far corner.
Catholic’s hopes of a comeback were hindered when substitute Mike Trenkel was sent off, but they had a chance to level when Mike Dean slid in and nudged the ball just off-target from close range. Godwin-Green made another good intervention to push wide a further effort from Sam Sollosi and a half-chance for Catholic saw Mark Baptist curl wide from range.
Another good save from Godwin-Green saw the stopper block with his legs to deny Nathan Sollosi, with Hill securing the win four minutes into added time. Espinoza made amends for his penalty miss by coolly slotting a finish beyond Godwin-Green having been played through on goal.
With Catholic riding high at the summit of the Olympian’s top flight, Mark’s promoted side now know they can compete themselves at that level. Williams concluded: “We’ve played a few of the teams in the top division this season and we know it’s going to be a different type of football.”
“I think we were very naïve and very young at the start of this season and I think we’ve matured as a team and hopefully that’ll put us in good stead. It’s a great set of boys. When I took the team over I brought in Nicky Potts and Billy Wells and they brought some boys over from Barkingside Reserves.”
“We gelled the boys and they get on really well. A lot of them are mates outside and sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t, but we were given an aim by the club to get back in that division and to compete, and we’ve done it first time.”
Buckhurst Hill: Daniel Blockley, Joe Re, Liam Foster, Henry Day, Billy Wells, Josh Addinall, Sam Sollosi, Josh Banfield, Steve Townsend, José Espinoza, Nathan Sollosi. Unused Substitutes: Alfie Harris, Christian Corbette, Tyriquee Soloman, Keaton Moore, Fehinti Falola.
Catholic United: Louis Godwin-Green, Pat Kearney (Mark Baptist, 63), Mike Dean, Brad Vaughan, Ellis Sands, Dan Trenkel (Dan Williams, 61), Harley Kee, Max Kent, Mike Sammut, Tom Kearney, Brad Williams (Mike Trenkel, 65). Unused Substitutes: Carl Read, Kevin Cole.
Referee: Lewis Farthing.
Assistant Referees: Harry Arnot and Jack Ridge.
Fourth Official: Ryan Smith.