After a truly wonderful advert for the ladies game, it was Maidstone United who edged what really was a thriller against a desperately unlucky Kent Football United side who came so agonisingly close to winning the Trophy.
But in the end it as Nicola Morris who showed nerves of steel as she stroked home the last spot kick to seal the in. The Stones had opened the scoring when Jessica Flischer got a bit of luck as the ball squirmed over the line before Lucy Cockerill rammed Kent level just before half time. And when Temi Adeyemi was on hand to hook a corner into the net, Kent had an advantage – one that would have grown but for a series of great stops from Stones keeper Kay Doody. Amanda Beeput sprinted away to level the scores again in the last ten minutes before Morris kept her nerve to in the game for Maidstone.
Maidstone boss Paul Clark was full of praise for both sides when he spoke to KSN after the game, “I’m absolutely delighted for the Ladies and I thought the opposition were outstanding and gave us a terrific game and made it a very exciting Final. It was ninety minutes of chaos at the end of the day and somewhere down the line you have to control enough of the game to create the chances to hopefully walk away with something. I don’t think you could have got a more exciting Final – I don’t think you could have got a more enthralling spectacle.”
Maria Tomkins – Kent Football United’s Manager – was just as proud of her side. “I’m really proud of the all the girls for maintaining their standards all the way through thru the game. It’s our first season as a Ladies side and I couldn’t be prouder of my team. We missed our chances – we had more chances – and I do think that we should have won, but” she added shrugging her shoulders, “that’s what makes Cup Finals so special! That’s how all Cup Finals should be – close and exciting! I thought we could have edged it. No one wants to lose a Cup Final but they’re a bonus. We want to get promoted next season and we’ve still got a League to win.”
Maidstone took the lead on 15 minutes when Kent keeper Abbie Bentley allowed Jessica Flischer’s shot to squeeze past her – Bentley is normally a full back and had stepped up to wear the keepers jersey after regular keeper – Mia MacKenzie – hurt herself at home the day before the Final and was in Accident and Emergency as the side boarded the coach.
Only two great saves from Doody – both times denying the unlucky Rachel Stevens – preserved the lead as Kent pressed for an equaliser that eventually came just before the break. Cockerill got on the end of a super pass from Chloe Francis to hammer home into the roof of the net.
Bentley literally used her feet to keep her side level just before the hour as she toe-ended Adrienne Kemp’s shot past the post whilst at the other end Stevens was again denied by Doody – also using here feet. But from their next corner Adeyemi rifled home to put Kent in front!
The lead that they should have extended on 69 minutes when Williams was the next to be denied by Doody as she was played in by Courtnay Ward. Kent were finally left to rue their missed chances as with fourteen minutes left Beeput sprinted clear before sliding the ball past the advancing keeper and into the net
Then came the moment that decided the Final, as two players went to ground in the Kent box, referee Snell immediately pointed to the spot and Morris remained the coolest inside the Gallagher as she stroked her penalty beyond the dive of Ami Burnham, who had swapped her defenders shirt for Bentley’s keepers shirt.
The Trophy then belongs to Maidstone United Girls and Ladies so last word to their boss. “I don’t think you could have got a more exciting Final,” Coach Clark said, and looking to the future added, “I think that Ladies Football in general needs a lift up – the FA have put some guidelines for the future, and it’s up to clubs like up to step up to that to make it happen!” And if progress means more wonderful contests like this, it can only be good for the continued growth of the Ladies game – both here in Kent and in the country as a whole.
Kent Football United – Abbie Bentley, Becky Burnham, Ami Burnham, Claire Williams, Chloe Francis, Rachel Stevens, Temi Adeyemi, Gabriella Hawkins, Lucy Cockerill, Charley Macneil, Courtney Ward
Subs – Lara Hammond, Leah Saunders
Maidstone United Girls & Ladies – Kay Doody, Emma Cahill, Abigail Spragg, Rachel Brewer, Megan Gill, Gemma Sullivan, Lucy Harrington, Jessica Flisher, Adrienne Kemp, Nicola Morris, Natalie Stacey
Subs – Amanda Beeput, Laura Lepetzidis, Rosie Hague, Helen Marsh, Emma Harrington
Referee – Ray Snell
Assistants – Michael O’Bree, Michael Wilson, Trevor Roberts
Match Report by Mike Green, Kent Sports News.
Match Photos by PSP Images.