Substitute Steve Sparks provided the late, late drama as The Bull lifted the delayed 2019/20 Kent Junior B Final in a terrifically entertaining Final that had just about everything as they staged a remarkable come from behind victory against the valiant Golden Knights United.
With the clock showing ninety minutes, substitute Sparks swivelled brilliantly on Tyla Clements teasing cross from the left to hammer the ball into the roof of the Golden Knights net as the Faversham side completed a truly remarkable come from behind triumph at the Gallagher Stadium.
For the Golden Knights, and in particular outstanding keeper Dan Stevens, it was a heartbreak that no-one would have predicted as they raced into a two goal first half lead through the hard-working Ozan Hassan and skipper Ben McManus, before The Bull responded before the break with a Lewis Pout penalty. In a truly pulsating Final, Bull levelled the scores with twenty minutes left as Dan Sadler outpaced the defence to prod home before the last gasp winner.
The Bull had the first chance with Knights keeper Stevens needing two grabs to keeper out Pout’s free kick, but it was the Golden Knights who scored first – a defensive mistake left four Knights bearing down on Joe Cheesman’s goal, but they only needed one as Hassan drove the ball beyond the advancing keeper into the bottom corner.
In an amazing, fast paced opening, chances came regularly at both ends – a diving Carlo Valente was only millimetres away from converting Pout’s brilliant cross (reminding some of Gary Lineker’s effort from John Barnes’ cross in the World Cup all those years ago); Cheesman just about got enough on a low ball into the Bull box to deny Joe Reynolds; Joe Simpson then dragged a shot wide for the Knights after Hassan had beaten the keeper to a bouncing ball before Dan Sadler fired wide for the Bull from the edge of the box.
The Knights second was another defending calamity for the Bull as a free kick into the box caused chaos and as two defenders collided, the ball almost apologetically bounced off the left post giving McManus the easiest of chances to bundle the ball home.
An incredibly lively opening half hour then continued with The Bull clawing themselves back into the game as Luke Ilott’s rampaging run into the box was unceremoniously ended by the other number three – Dan Lennox – and Pout duly sent Stevens the wrong was from twelve yards.
The Bull thought they’d levelled just before the hour when Sadler turned home a free-kick at the back post only to be denied by the assistant’s flag, whilst Knights best early chance in the second period – now under the baking mid-day Maidstone sunshine – fell to Baker who sliced wide.
With twenty minutes left, the scores were finally levelled as Sadler raced onto a through ball and despite being under pressure from Lennox, just managed to prod the ball wide of the advancing Stevens and into the net as the keeper and defender collided.
Back immediately came the Knights and Hassan was brilliantly denied by an Andrew Bowen tackle and as the ball ran free, Cheesman did magnificently to block Reynolds following up as the striker hit the ball.
Five minutes from time, the trickery of Man of the Match Clements carved out a chance that perhaps should have won The Bull the trophy as his brilliance on the edge of the box swung the ball into Pout, but the skipper just couldn’t get enough on the ball and Stevens was able to make a save. Pout then found himself in space on the edge of the box but yet again Stevens was equal to the task – pulling off a tremendous blocking save away to his right.
Stevens then excelled again – Sadler’s low drive seemed to have beaten the keeper but somehow, he managed to reach a ball that seemed behind and beyond him.
Just as it seemed that Stevens would be the hero for the Knights, even he was unable to do anything to deny Sparks last gasp winner – rooted to the spot as the Bull substitute turned magnificently to drill high into the roof of the net.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS UNITED – Dan Stevens, Gary Hughes, Dan Lennox, Connor Brosnan, Andrew Bowen, Dean Hughes, Steve Baker, Ben McManus, Joe Simpson, Joe Reynolds, Ozan Hassan
Subs – Sam Avery, Michael Brooks, Sean Edwards, Pete Campbell, Michael Elsey
THE BULL – Joe Cheeseman, Joe Ellett, Richard Daws, Jack Hanson, Luke Ilott, Tyla Clements, Lewis Pout, Mathew Hart, Dan Sadler, Sam Ryan, Carlo Valente
Subs – Sam Gaiger, Rob Parker, Kieran Amer, Steve Sparks, James Hart
REFEREE – Mr Goldup
ASSISTANTS – Mr Osborn & Mr Cogley
FOURTH ASSISTANT – Mr Clarke