CYRIL ANEKSTEIN CUP FINAL
HENDON UTD 3
After extra-time (Oakwood won 6-5 on penalties)
Having seen Hendon wrestle the league title from them a fortnight ago, Oakwood were determined to deny Hendon a league and cup double in a contest that will go down as one of most thrilling in League Cup finals in memory.
The first half was something of a cagey affair, with Oakwood left-winger Josh Cuby showing his array of skills against Ari Nevies, while at the other end, Moses Seitler tested and teased a well-drilled Oakwood back-line.
The final, played at Rowley Lane for the first time, took 20 minutes to get going. Nevies and Josh Harris sent efforts wide of goal, while Oakwood talisman Brad Wine did his best to push Hendon back.
The highlight of the first half saw Hendon centre-back Avi Korman end a marauding run with a powerful drive that stung the fingers of Joe Botchin in the Oakwood goal – the young keeper arched backwards to divert the ball over the crossbar at full-stretch.
Botchin was called into action again early in the second half, this time he was equal to a sweetly-struck volley from Hendon captain Ari Last.
Oakwood had struggled to penetrate the Hendon defence for the opening 50 minutes, but they forged ahead when a dangerous cross from the left was fumbled by the injured Russell Corin, who was struck down by cramp in both calves at the crucial moment, allowing the alert Wine to nip in and tap the ball over the line. The Hendon goalkeeper stayed down for several minutes for treatment from the physio, but was unable to continue.
Reserve keeper Arthur Caplin was all set to replace him until the match officials confirmed that he had indeed not been named on the bench, so he was unable to join the action. This forced Hendon to reshuffle, with right-back Nevies hastily changing jerseys, picking up the gloves and going in goal, while Dovi Fehler was thrown into the forward line.
Wine had also run his race, he limped off after putting in an energetic shift, with Sam Cantor replacing him.
The game’s only flashpoint saw an ugly coming together between Oakwood striker Leor Sidle and Korman. Hands were raised by referee Luke Steele produced only a yellow card.
It appeared the luck was going against Hendon, but then Fehler made an immediate impact, racing into the box before tumbling over a challenge. Steele had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot, with Korman holding his nerve to equalise, drilling his shot firmly down the centre of goal, as Botchin dived the wrong way. It was game on.
Oakwood responded instantly, with a pinpoint cross from the industrious Sidle glanced home expertly by livewire Cuby. Nevies could only watch the ball nestled into the far corner of the net.
With the clock ticking down, it looked as though Oakwood had done enough to see out the game, but there was a dramatic late twist, as a powerful shot from Weiler was parried by Botchin, but Korman reacted quickest to slip the ball into the net from close range.
With the bit between their teeth, Hendon could smell blood and they went in search of a winner. Sidle was denied by an heroic block by Ari Last before Hendon broke away, Seitler cut inside his marker and fired goalwards but Botchin stuck out a leg, producing an instinctive save to divert the ball away for a corner. Oakwood and Rowley Lane was rocking, but Steele sounded the final whistle to signal extra-time, amid dropping temperatures.
Hendon fans were relieved to see Corin had recovered sufficiently to take his place in nets for the resumption.
The match continued to ebb and flow, Sam Cantor raced away from the Hendon defence before going around Corin. He sent his shot goalwards but the goalkeeper did superbly well to recover and smother his shot before the danger was cleared.
The goal of the game came on 106 minutes, as Oakwood regained the lead for the third time. Cuby showed his marker a clean pair of heels on the halfway line, before cutting in a couple of other challenges, running into the box and slipping his shot past the onrushing Corin – it was a goal of stunning simplicity and individual brilliance from the winger from Gilbraltar, reminiscent of Michael Owen’s World Cup wonder goal against Argentina.
The strike was worthy of winning any game, but Hendon did not let their heads drop and they continued to play with great unity, character and belief. Fehler was denied by another excellent save low down by the over-worked Botchin.
Hendon continued to search for their third equaliser, and their endeavours were rewarded after three stunning reflex saves from an inspired Botchin, with Yoav Kestenbaum the coolest man in Arkley to force the ball over the line in the dying seconds to take the game to penalties.
An incredible the three-hour marathon was to be decided by a shoot-out, as players from both teams doubled up with cramp.
Both Corin and Botchin produced excellent saves, while Fehler had a chance to win it for Hendon, but he saw his effort come back off the post. The net continued to ripple and the decisive moment saw Ben Lauffer needing to convert, but Botchin guessed correctly and blocked the shot before he was mobbed by his team-mates amid scenes of wild jubilation before Oakwood lifted the cup.
“This was a great day for the club,” Oakwood joint-manager Dan Kristall told JC Sport. “It was an amazing game and a complete emotional roller-coaster - a lot of the press wrote us off after missing out on the league but this game was all about our character and determination to see the job out.
“To respond from the double injury blow to Brad Wine and Alex Lee, conceding in the 96th minute of normal time and the 120th minute of extra-time, shows you what we are all about.”
Reflecting on the heroics of Botchin in goal, Kristall remarked: “I am delighted for Joe, it was his first season for Oaks and he was devastated with his mistake a few weeks ago but he more than made up for it in the final. He kept us in the game and made the crucial penalty saves.
“Josh Cuby was unplayable at times, he caught Hendon out having not played against them in the league meetings but I shouldn’t single out individuals because this was a superb team effort from start to finish and on the balance of play, I felt we just edged it and should have won the game before a shoot-out (especially leading at the times we did).”
Looking back at the game, Kristall went on to say: “After a fairly even first half, where I felt we were slow out of the traps, we got the goal early in the second half. I felt we looked fairly comfortable and will need to see the penalty incident back before commenting.
“We reacted with a superb move to get what we thought was the winner in normal time, only to be pegged back again and then after dominating the opening period of extra-time, we got ourselves in front with an unbelievable solo goal from Josh.
“We finally looked to have seen the game out but then as Dale had to come off with cramp and we tried to get him back on, they pumped one more ball in our box and after a set of amazing saves from Joe, they tapped in.
“Many teams would then have folded but we re-organised and scored some nice penalties. We got lucky with a couple but cup football has to find a winner and on this occasion it was us.
“As a club, we have been on the wrong end of shoot-outs so it was about time we won one!
“The celebrations and scenes at the end were truly incredible.”
Paying tribute to the league champions, Kristall commented: “Credit to Hendon for coming back. They're a great side. I firmly believe the best two sides in Jewish football played in this final. They deserved their league title because they were very consistent and had the same side out most weeks.
“We struggled in that department but were able to use an incredible strong 16, which if we hadn't had, we don't win this game.
“I want to thanks Dave Cohen and Adam Levine for putting up with me on the touchline this season. Blanky, as well, in his new role as club chairman, putting up with my moaning. A big well done to Jason with the B's on an excellent finish in third place, their best-ever position.
“Finally, a big thanks to the players who have kept going and worked so hard throughout the season but got their reward.
“We, as a club, are progressing and we are winning things. This is our first cup success following last year’s incredible league win. We were disappointed with our finish to the league season where I felt injuries and lack of squad depth eventually caught up on us, but to finish runners-up and with cup makes the season another huge success.
We will work hard over the summer to strengthen the squad and come back even better in September.
“For now, we look forward to a nice summer break.
Hendon boss Greg Corin admitted “it wasn’t our best display of the season but we hope it was a good advert for Jewish Sunday league football and I am very proud of the players and the never say die and collective attitude we showed in the match”.
He said: We let in our first goal due to Russ Corin getting injured and then after a miscommunication with the match officials we did not have our sub goalkeeper registered for the bench which was the reason for us conceding our second goal. Russ came back in for extra time and penalties and was nearly the hero as we had the chance to win the game but hit the wrong side of the post in decisive shoot out.
“Penalties is always a lottery and a cruel way to lose a final but I think the manner in which we came back into the game three times meant that we had given it our all and we couldn’t be upset with the effort. We’re just disappointed with the outcome of the shootout.’
“It’s been a great season. We would have liked more games to play in the league and we’re desperate for the standard to improve considerably so it’s great that we have a rival like Oakwood to come up against.
“They’re competitive and a strong team and had a stand-out player in their left-winger so well done today to them. We usually get the better of them but today it wasn’t to be.
‘A big thank you to the players, whether they played or were on the bench, incredible attitude from everyone throughout. The support from the fans was also outstanding. The weather was terrible but it dampen the voices of our supporters and it created a great atmosphere.
“We don’t end the season on the high we wanted despite comfortably winning the league title and that now gives us something to aim for next season. Despite my role as player-manager for next year not being confirmed, I am confident that whichever direction the club takes, we will be competing for trophies again next season.”
HENDON: Russell Corin, Ari Nevies, Mordi Weiler, Ben Lauffer, Avi Korman, Rocky Spitzer, Ari Last, Josh Harris, Moses Seitler, Yoav Kestenbaum, Gav Lewis. Subs: Dudi Edreyi, Greg Corin, Josh Bentley, Alex Rosenthal, Dovi Fehler
OAKWOOD: Joe Botchin, Alex Lee, Dale Bradman, Tom Cantor, Toby Levy, Thomas Prais, Kyle Bentwood, Rafi Stone, Brad Wine, Leor Sidle, Josh Cuby. Subs: Simon Davies, Luke Brookner, Jake Norton, David Woolman, Sam Cantor
Toby Levy - scored
Sam Cantor - saved
Rafi Stone - scored
Leor Sidle - scored
Josh Cuby - scored
Thomas Prais - scored
Simon Davies - saved
Jake Norton – scored
Last - scored
Seitler - scored
Kestenbaum - saved
Korman - scored
Lewis - scored
Harris - scored
Fehler - missed
Lauffer - saved