Supersub Stock hits late strike to clinch double for North West Neasden
A last-gasp strike from supersub Matt Stock helped North West Neasden A complete the league and cup double as they came from a goal down to beat 2007 league champions Hendon United A at Wingate & Finchley on Sunday.
The Peter Morrison Trophy final was far from the predicted classic and the manner of Neasden’s victory was anything but a work of art.
Second best for large parts of the match, they relied on what manager Jamie Cole described as “incredible character, spirit and hard work” to break down a resilient Hendon team in a battle that went to the wire.
Captain Lee Cash said: “This was such a fantastic achievement for everyone involved at Neasden. We’ve worked so hard for this and to finally win the double was just an amazing feeling.”
Having beaten the Hammers home and away in the league, Neasden went into the game with a psychological edge but it was clear that the reds had done their homework as they edged the contest for the first hour. Neasden started the match with reserve keeper, Andrew Emden, after David Fox was forced to pull out with a strained abdominal muscle.
Emden, whose appearances had become limited after fatherhood and the inspired form of Fox, rolled back the years with an assured performance that proved he had lost none of the reflexes that had helped the team win the Premier Division crown in 2002.
Having shown their mettle with hard-fought victories against North West Neasden B, Manchester Maccabi 1st and Leeds Maccabi on their way to the final, Neasden found themselves unable to live with Hendon’s early endeavours as old boy Greg Corin led them a merry dance. Neasden began very cagily and were lucky not to be a goal down in the opening five minutes as a Saul Conway shot was deflected wide by Jake Gottlieb, who had girlfriend Lacy Turner (aka Stacey Slater from Eastenders) watching in the stands.
Manager Jonathan Kestenbaum spent most of the match in the stand, all smiles as he watched his team adopt tactics that began to stifle Neasden.
The reds continued to dominate and deservedly broke the deadlock on 16 minutes. A long throw from Josh Bentley was partially headed clear but landed invitingly for Corin who made the perfect connection to volley into the bottom corner for his seventh goal in this season’s Jewish FA Cup.
Things went from bad to worse for Jamie Cole’s men when his younger brother, Daniel, was harshly sent off for a late challenge on Corin. Championship referee Jarnail Singh described it as “a disgusting late tackle”. The Neasden camp were clearly incensed by the decision as Cole made the lonely journey down the tunnel.
A goal and a man down, Neasden appeared content to hold on until half time when they could reshuffle, but they were given a scare when Saul Conway’s goalbound effort was brilliantly blocked.
Neasden’s upped the ante in the second half, introducing Stock and Adam Stolerman. Stock should have done better with a bouncing ball in the box but he shot straight at goalkeeper Danny Berliner. The pressure paid off on 70 minutes as Stock did well to keep the ball in play, passed to Danny Daggers whose pinpoint cross to the near post was met by a looping header from Lee Cash. The ball flew over Berliner and nestled in the top corner for his seventh goal in the competition.
It was game on and with the bit between their teeth, Neasden went in search of the winner as Hendon tried to hold on for extra time.
The 10 men of Neasden were rewarded for their grandstand finish when a hopeful ball into the box fell invitingly to Stock who was the coolest man in the ground, slipping the ball past the onrushing Berliner to win the cup. He was mobbed by his team, at least the ones that didn’t collapse in a heap with cramp. There was no way back for the Hammers, who finished potless for the first time in two seasons.
Neasden boss Jamie Cole told said: “My team were absolutely amazing. I have been saying all season that this is the best team I have ever managed from a footballing viewpoint, and the team spirit is the best I have ever known.
“Hendon were up for it and they dominated for the first 25 minutes. We needed to show great resolve and determination after what was one of the worst refereering decisions I have ever seen. I believe the sending off was incorrect and it was a shame the competition organisers chose a referee from outside the league. I was gutted for Danny as he did not deserved to be sent off. It left us with 10 men for 70 minutes. But we held on until half time. The boys showed amazing character in the second half to cap an unbelievable season.”
Revealing that Jonny Ellis was named Neasden player of the season on the eve of the match, he added: “Having beaten Hendon twice in the league I think we had a psychological edge and had better quality going forward. The hardest thing will be retaining the cup.
“They are the best team we have played this season and will no doubt finish second in the league. But today is all about Neasden and the double is the perfect way to complete the season. It would not have been possible without my assistant Daniel Fox and chairman Sammy Carr.”
Matchwinner Stock said: “It feels unbelievable to score the winner. I was lucky to get on to the ball and slot it home, but I think in the end we played better with 10 men rather than 11.”
Hendon manager Jonathan Kestenbaum reflected: “I thought we really performed well in the first half and we were comfortable until the last quarter of the game. Our intensity and tempo dropped, Neasden picked up on it and that proved to be the difference.”