Cup final proves a game too many

Action from the Vodkat League Cup Final between Winsford and New Mills. Photo: Allan Toft.
Action from the Vodkat League Cup Final between Winsford and New Mills. Photo: Allan Toft.

Vodkat League Cup Final

New Mills AFC 0, Winsford United 1

NEW MILLS were denied a league and cup double as they slipped to a single-goal defeat to Winsford United in the Vodkat League Challenge Cup final at The Tameside Stadium last Wednesday evening.

The Premier Division Champions began exceptionally brightly and had much the better of the early proceedings. Captain Carlos Meakin flashed a free kick narrowly wide of the target and youngster Harry Noon, starting in place of the hamstrung Dean Crowe, then tried to chip Richie Mottram from distance and only just failed to do so with the Winsford keeper well beaten.

A goal at that stage would have been fair reward for The Millers’ early dominance but Winsford weathered the early midfield storm and as the half progressed, they started to create chances of their own.

In fact, they came the closest to breaking the deadlock in the opening 45 minutes when Adam Bayley’s spectacular long distance effort cannoned back off the crossbar.

Centre half Tony Barras, who has tried so hard in recent weeks to break his goalscoring duck for The Millers, went close just after the break when he escaped his marker to meet Carl Carey’s corner but the header went just over the crossbar.

This was a rare effort from New Mills though as rather than playing to their strengths, they played into Winsford’s hands somewhat by continually playing long balls into the strikers which they couldn’t really contend with considering the physicality of the opposing centre halves.

The longer the game went on, the more the likelihood that one goal would be sufficient to capture the cup and this proved to be the case.

With 17 minutes of the game remaining, New Mills’ goal led a bit of a charmed life as shots in quick succession from Josh Mainwaring and Liam Newman were desperately blocked. When the ball broke out wide, left back Luke Horrocks conceded a cheap free kick and was cautioned for his troubles.

The resulting free kick, which was almost level with the penalty area, was taken by Lee Duckworth who drove the ball into the danger area where it evaded both attackers, defenders and goalkeeper alike and crept just inside the far post.

Now chasing the game, New Mills’ cause wasn’t helped when Luke Horrocks received his second yellow card of the game with six minutes to go.

Winsford’s Matthew Ward, who had been booked in the first half and then received a final warning after escaping punishment for a seemingly worse tackle on Nick Swirad, was the aggressor in the situation as he very deliberately kicked the ball from close range straight at Horrocks. Maybe understandably, the New Mills defender reacted by throwing the ball at Ward and Mr Salisbury deemed the petulant retaliation to be worthy of a second caution.

As is generally the case, the perpetrator escaped punishment and disappointingly walked away from the ensuing melee with a smile on his face.

Despite throwing on Liam Coyne as an emergency striker and even sending up keeper Ben Procter for corners in the closing minutes, The Millers never seriously tested Winsford’s Richie Mottram in the second half and even when Daniel Douglas-Pringle escaped the clutches of the defensive line in stoppage time, a spilt second’s hesitation from the striker enabled the shot to be blocked and with that The Millers’ chances were effectively finished.

The result on the night was a fair one as it looked like “one game too many” as New Mills’ punishing recent schedule finally caught up with them as they looked a very tired side against a strong Winsford unit.

Whilst it was a disappointing outcome, the players and management should look back on the season as a whole with great pride and satisfaction as they achieved their number one aim of securing promotion to The Evo-Stik League.

New Mills: Procter, Bowler, Horrocks, Swirad, Barras, Carey, Meakin, Pickford, Douglas-Pringle, Noon (Coyne), Swarbrick. Unused subs: Hirst, Rowe, Podmore, Ingram-Hughes.