It was a glorious sunny day as the players and supporters of Dronfield Town (the Town) and Stoney Middleton (the Stoney) made their way to Grindleford to contest the final of the Roden Cup. Both teams arrived early at the ground for their own pre match warm up. The pitch was in really good condition if slightly hard which was not unexpected given the weather the previous few days which means that even places like Grindleford cannot escape the effects of Global warming.
The Town Manager gave his pre match "fight em on the beaches speech" and challenged the team to win the cup for Pete and Charno, the people from Dronfield who had given up their time to watch the match, and for the team themselves. A enforced change to the Town team from last week had to be made as Ross was in Benidorm for a weekend bash. Lowey returned to the team at left full back with Sadler moving up into midfield, Doyley to partner Jamie up front, Jonny to right midfield and Tuna to right full back. Benitez at his best.
So it was to 2.30pm and kick off time. Leading up to kick off the crowd numbers had increased and healthy crowd witnessed the start of the game. Nerves were clearly evident from both teams at the start of the match and neither team particularly settled well. While the purists of the game might have frowned at what was on show it was nonetheless an absorbing game. It was clear the team that settled the quickest would gain the upperhand.
Twenty minutes into the game and a crunching tackle left Sadler limping which would within a few minutes mean his early retirement from the game. Towers replaced him with Doyley switching to left midfield and Towers partnering Jamie up front.
Town then started to show some signs of getting their passing game going which the Manager had demanded prior to kick off. There were some nice moves developing through the middle and down the left hand side and the Town were beginning to exert a bit of pressure. The Stoney were not offering a great deal but suddenly a speculative shot brought a great save from Gav as he pushed the ball over the cross bar. Defensively Town were giving very little away and this was providing the foundation for the midfield and forwards to take a tighter grip on the game.
The Town continued to look more likely to score and shortly before half time they duly took the lead. Doyley with his trade mark cross from the left found Jamie lurking at the back post and in a traditional goal poacher's goal tapped the ball in from all of six inches (Doyley maintained after the game his cross was going in although he did have a twinke in his eye when he said it). Half time - The Town 1 The Stoney 0.
The Town Manager spoke confidently of his team's prospects for the second half if, the defence continued to keep a tight grip on the opposition's attack, and they continued to try and play a good passing game. It was important to let the ball do the work as the heat was physically and mentally draining.
Town increasingly dominated the second half with the expected fight back from The Stoney not really happening. Also the quality of the football was getting better and the confidence gained from the goal was clearly to be seen. It was only a matter of time before the Town got the second and it was no surprise when Jamie claimed his second of the match. Yet again an instinctive strike from the Town's number 9.
Surely the Town could not lose it. The vital second goal offered the opportunity for the Manager to use all his substitutes. After some debate in the management team Ian replaced Jonny with Sarnis moving to right midfield and Joycey to sit in midfield and offer further protection to the defence.
Then bad luck struck the Town and Ian in particular as he suffered an injury and had to be replaced by Luke. The Manager's pre match plan was in tatters as his intention to give Luke (who himself was injured) the last minute had to be adjusted. Presty went up fron with Towers slipping into midfield.However worse was to happen as Luke also got injured but given there was no more substitutions allowed or available he had to remain on the field of play. The Manager in particular thought a couple of comments about it being Luke's best game were a bit unfair.
The conversation within the management team was all about the man of the match. A number of players were in the frame including Ross Carey who wasn't even playing !!!!!!! Decisions, decisions.
Town were in the ascendency and it came as no surprise when they scored a third. A hat trick in any game is an achievement but one in a cup final is a memory to savour and Jamie duly celebrated with his team mates. That third goal also sorted out the decision for man of the match.
So it was to the final whistle. The teams and officials shook hands and the Manager and his players celebrated their fine victory. Water and beer over the Manager's head were the order of the day.
Overall a successful and enjoyable afternoon for the Town and credit must go to all the players as everyone turned in good performances and it was truly a team effort.
Thanks to the Stoney team, the officials, the Hope Valley representatives and the staff at Grindleford Football Club for the use of their fine facilities.
Thanks to Pete and Charno for your help. Also a big thanks to all the people from Dronfield and elsewhere who turned up to support the team - it really was appreciated and it certainly helped the boys.
Just a final thought. Three goals and three partners for Jamie all in one afternoon. The ex East 17 lead singer had done well and was later heard offering up a rendition of "Hold My Body Tight". If only Jamie, if only.