LONDON FA SUNDAY INTERMEDIATE CUP FINAL
FAITHFOLD A 1 SHOOTS & LEAVES FC 0
A moment of magic from Dan Perkins helped Faithfold A become the first-ever Jewish team to win the prestigious London FA Sunday Intermediate Cup following a titanic tussle against Shoots & Leaves FC at Wingate & Finchley on Sunday morning.
The match looked set to go into extra-time until Perkins struck a memorable winner 15 minutes from time.
Faithfold had had the better of the match, with striker Daryl Phillips denied from the penalty spot, but they rode their luck at times as well, with Shoots & Leaves firing against the woodwork on two occasions.
The Superhoops made an emotional return to the same Harry Abrahams Stadium where they had lost 5-2 in the cup final against Libra Arms 11 years ago.
They were missing midfield general Alex Kaye, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with ankle ligament damage, and Dan Stock, and manager Zuriel Solomon opted to start Phillips in favour of Mike Pearson.
Faithfold settled first and had the first shot after just 10 seconds when a long ball from Alex Taylor was flicked on by Jonny Haik to release Phillips who fired weakly and straight at the keeper.
Taylor was the first players into the referee's notebook when he was harshly shown yellow after winning the ball.
Shoots & Leaves played their part in a gripping final, with Faithfold keeper Ben Law called into action in the 17th minute and he got down well to hold on to a low shot.
Faithfold continued to threaten and Perkin sent a swerving shot goalwards. The ball was heading into the top corner until it was brilliantly tipped over by the Shoots & Leaves keeper.
The next chance came on 21 minutes as Faithfold broke, Phillips released Jonny Haik who fired wastefully wide.
Another chance fell the way of the boys in green and white hoops a minute later but Perkins blazed over.
Shoots & Leaves started to pick up the pace and Law was left stranded to a sizzling strike from outside the box, but the Faithfold team were relieved to see the ball crash back of the angle of crossbar and post.
It looked only a matter of time until Faithfold would forge ahead and Haik forced another smart save after an excellent turn and shot after 29 minutes.
Faithfold were then given a golden opportunity to take the lead when the referee pointed to the penalty spot after the impressive Dan Howard was brought down in the area. Up stepped stalwart Daryl Phillips but his powerful spot-kick was superbly pushed away for a corner by the keeper who was having an inspired match.
Faithfold continued to take the game to their opponents and a giant clearance from Law was flicked on by Haik to Elliot Stern but he mishit hit shot with his weaker foot and the danger had gone.
As the half-time whistle blew, it remained goalless with Faithfold left to reflect on a series of missed opportunities, due in part to a lack of composure in the final third and some excellent goalkeeping.
Shoots & Leaves came close again at the start of the second half when another long-range effort smacked against the crossbar with Law beaten.
Alex Taylor came close to breaking the deadlock on 55 minutes when his floated cross looked set to dip in at the far post only for the keeper to produce a vital finger-tip save.
Solomon made his first change around the hour mark when Stern went off with a knee injury and was replaced by Benji Dymant just before Sam Reeves was booked for a foul.
Phillips then made way for the fresh legs of Mike Pearson who immediately put Shoots & Leaves on to the back foot, with his pace and movement.
With the match going into the final quarter, Perkins picked up the ball on the left-hand side, cut infield before unleashing a ferocious shot that nestled in the top corner. It was a goal worthy of winning any match.
Faithfold tried to close out the game, with Paul Savitz replacing the industrious Haik and the Greens should have scored a second in the closing stages when Pearson found space before curling his shot inches wide.
There were scenes of wild celebrations as the final whistle sounded and Faithfold had realised just what they had acheived.
Jubilant manager Zuriel Solomon told JC Sport: "It feels amazing, I can't describe it. I think my half-time teamtalk did it. I told the boys that I would not leave the ground without the trophy. I thought we deserved it.
"I'm proud of all the boys who dug in and defended brilliantly. The longer it went on the more I thought one goal would settle it. We missed a lot of chances and I felt the game could have been over by half-time, but we've waited a long time for this and I'm looking forward to celebrating the victory tonight.
"Myself and Daryl Phillips have worked hard for the last three to four years to get the club back to where it belongs. This team is different to the one in 2002. It has a lot of pace and power. We were missing two key players today in Kaye and Stock but football is all about the squad.
"I'm proud to be Jewish and this win is also for the MSFL. It puts Sunday amateur Jewish football on the map and I feel there are bigger implications from here."
With the league and cup double still on, Solomon added: ""We'll continue to take it one game at a time. It's all about the next game. We've got a double-header against Oakwood which will be tough, followed by Norstar before we take on champions Hendon."
Reflecting on his winner, Dan Perkins told JC Sport: "I picked it up on the left, cut inside on to my weaker right side and let fly. It felt great when I saw it go in."
Assistant-manager Daryl Phillips told JC Sport: "I thought we played well but we didn't take our chances. It feels great to win this cup after 25 years. It's the only thing I hadn't won with Faithfold.
"It feels even sweeter after what happened 11 years ago so well done to the boys who did well and kept going and saved me after my penalty miss.
"We now focus on the league which is in our hands."
Faithfold: Ben Law, Alex Taylor, Dan Howard, Alex Levack (capt), Jamie Taylor, Elliot Stern (sub: Benji Dymant 60), Paul Babai, Sam Reeves, Dan Perkins, Jonny Haik (sub: Paul Savitz 85), Daryl Phillips (sub: Mike Pearson 70). Sub not used: Ben Lewis
Scorer: Dan Perkins 75
Booked: Alex Taylor 13, Sam Reeves 61
Man of the match: Dan Howard
JC BIG MATCH STATS
On target: 12
Off target: 10
Yellows: 2 (A. Taylor, Reeves)
SHOOTS & LEAVES FC
On target: 4
Off target: 4