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Paringdon Vets Player-Manager Nathan Bethell was proud to have ‘done it for Harlow’ as his side lifted the Essex Saturday Veterans Cup with a solid display against Greene King Essex Veterans League Premier Division leaders Little Thurrock Dynamos.
A first-half Gregg Hughes hat-trick, backed-up by strikes from Mark Oliva and Jimmy Cochrane, earned Dynamos’ divisional rivals the silverware they narrowly missed out on the previous season. Joe Keith netted a penalty for Little Thurrock. At full time, Bethell reacted: “It’s one of the highlights for most of the guys in terms of where they’ve played.”
“Harlow, as a town, hasn’t seen enough Essex cup victories from across the different competitions, so it was something we wanted to set right. We’ve got some good players, we’ve all grown up together. We’ve known each other since we were seven or eight years old. It was really nice to come together tonight and win the Essex Cup, so we’re really proud of that.”
Paringdon were aware pre-match that they were in for a tough challenge to break the stranglehold Little Thurrock and Hutton Old Boys had on the competition since 2013. But they raced out of the blocks and were two goals in-front early on. In the 11th minute a right-wing corner was curled into the box and Hughes outjumped his marker to bury a header into the back of the net.
Six minutes later the in-form striker made it 2-0. From another right-flank ball into the danger zone, Hughes guided a header into the goalmouth which diverted off unfortunate Little Thurrock defender Sammy McCarthy, who couldn't prevent it trickling over the goal line. On the half-hour mark, Paringdon registered a stunning third to give their opponents a real uphill struggle.
Dynamos couldn’t clear a through ball and Oliva raced through to capitalise on the confusion, rifling home low from ten yards past exposed goalkeeper Marc Baker. As if that wasn’t enough, Hughes then nipped in ahead of a defender at the near post on 34 minutes to surprise the goalkeeper and poke home to complete his trio.
Bethell revealed he was a little shocked, recalling: “If we looked at the league game we played against them we were 4-0 down after half an hour, so it was nice to turn it around. We believe in ourselves, we’ve got very good players and they just showed belief in themselves. It was nice that we took our chances. If they all did that, we knew we’d be in a good position.”
He will have been aware of the quality in Little Thurrock’s squad so, even in such an advantageous position, Nathan wouldn’t have been complacent. That proved wise on 36 minutes as Little Thurrock responded. They’d been creating chances and, when Scott Johnson was brought down just inside the penalty area, Keith made no mistake in hammering home the resulting spot kick.
That made it 4-1 at the interval, with a suggestion a potential comeback could be on the cards. The goals dried-up somewhat after half time but Dynamos will have felt their best opportunity to stage a strong resurgence slipped through their fingers as Billy Davie spurned a simple 63rd-minute chance to get them back into the game from a few yards.
Later on, in the 76th minute, it was Paringdon’s turn to waste an opportunity. Micky Arnold brought down one of their forward runners for a penalty, but reliable ‘keeper Baker got down well to push away David Robinson's spot kick. As Little Thurrock pushed forward in search of something more to build on, this naturally left gaps in defence.
With eight minutes remaining, Paringdon’s Ashley Conlan set himself on the right to round the game off from ten yards but he curled inches over, though Cochrane sealed the silverware two minutes from time courtesy of a slotted finish from ten yards. It could have been six but for an excellent goal line clearance by Dynamos’ McCarthy in injury time, yet the job was done.
Boss Bethell, with 2018’s final defeat to Hutton in mind, concluded: “We’re over the moon! It’s been a long time coming. Last year we lost in the final, 3-2, and the second half wasn’t great last year. This year, right from the start, everyone was right at it against a very good side.”
Little Thurrock Dynamos: Marc Baker, Dan Endean, Sammy McCarthy, Tony Relf, Chris Mitchell, Scott Johnson, Micky Arnold, Billy Davie, Dave Moran, Joe Keith, Keith Martin. Substitutes (repeated): Danny Greaves, Dean Allen, Paul Cobb, Rob Milton, Bryan Hammatt.
Paringdon Vets: Ray Barnett, Warren Blackburn, Mark Pearcey, Matt Hayter, Jimmy Cochrane, Ryan Oliva, Ryan Williams, Ashley Conlan, Andrew Devine, David Robinson, George Hughes. Substitutes (repeated): Nathan Bethell, Jamie Horn, Ben Thornley, Paul Munn, Rob Garraty.
Referee: Stephen Gleeson (Harlow).
Assistant Referees: Ryan Anderson (Havering) and Keith Meade (Harlow).
Fourth Official: Michael Allen (Havering).