The most dramatic Kent Final of the season saw Blendon come from behind to beat Farnborough OBG at the Gallagher Stadium.
After Steve Townsend had given Farnborough the second-half lead just moments after being reduced to ten men – Ashley Bertrand shown a second yellow card for pulling back Tyler Norbett. And the ten men thought they would hold on for an unlikely success only to be denied with literally the last kick of stoppage time as Joe Abbott thundered home a deserved equaliser before Bill Bennett capped a brilliant personal performance by sliding home the Cup winner in the second period of extra time, before the most controversial of finishes as Farnborough thought they’d forced a shoot out as Paul Lee headed home only to be denied by the latest of late flags from the assistant that sparked mayhem in the box.
It’s not often that two sides from the same league contest these finals (this was just the second time in living memory) – let alone the same division as the champions of the Orpington & Bromley League met the side who finished third – but that aside, the final was without doubt the most enthralling of the season.
The clearest chance in what was by what followed a quiet opening period fell to Blendon, but after Josh Armfield’s terrific cushioned header, Bennett could only drag his shot wide of Farnborough keeper Charlie Merrick’s right post, whilst at the other end, Farnborough should really have taken the lead but after getting in a great position – unmarked bang in front of goal – Townsend couldn’t convert Ryan Penton’s brilliant ball into the box, and the chance was gone. Townsend was so close to making amends for his earlier miss on the stroke of half time but was denied brilliantly by Blendon keeper Sam Armfield, who made an excellent low save to turn away a shot that skidded off the damp surface.
The game seemed to turn in Blendon’s direction just past the hour when Farnborough were reduced to ten men as Bertrand was shown a second yellow card for dragging the lively Norbett to the ground, meaning it would be a backs to the wall final thirty minutes for Farnborough’s ten men.
But as happens so often, the ten men responded and almost immediately opened the scoring in their very next attack – Townsend this time keeping his composure to roll the ball past the wrong footed Armfield and into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the box.
Merrick was then forced into a terrific full length save to deny Fraser Moir’s fine turn and shot before the keeper again did well – racing from his line to block Bennett’s effort after some brilliant individual skill saw the Blendon number ten wriggle clear as the eleven men piled forward.
Stoppage time arrived, and with the ten men seconds from glory, they were denied as Abbott magnificently swept home the equaliser with literally the last kick of normal time. Yes, it was tough on Farnborough and in particular skipper Ross Warburton and Lewis Chambers who were outstanding in their rear-guard action, but Blendon undoubtedly deserved the extra period… and didn’t they take advantage!
Farnborough had the only real opportunity of the first extra period – Armfield making a good save to keep out Kevin Lott’s free kick before the second period began with Moir firing into the side netting after some more sublime skill from Bennett.
From the very next attack, Man of the Match Bennett was allowed to race clear and as the flag stayed down, he prodded the ball wide of the hopelessly exposed Merrick and into the net to spark wild scenes of celebration.
Farnborough weren’t finished though, and they thought they’d levelled as Paul Lee headed home Lott’s free-kick that had come back off the post into the net only for the assistant to controversially – and very belatedly – raise his flag that caused mayhem and the melee eventually ended with both sides having men dismissed – Armfield for Blendon and Connor Dobson for Farnborough.
When order was restored, Bennett thought he’d sealed the win but again was superbly denied – this time by Merrick’s feet -but it wasn’t to matter as shortly after, referee Uddin blew the final whistle to end undoubtedly the liveliest final of the year ended, with Blendon’s ten men holding on for the win against the nine men of Farnborough.
BLENDON – Sam Armfield, George Jones, Charlie Livett, Alex Legge, Greg Benbow, Jimmy Rogers, Bill Bennett, Sam Hellens, Owen Griffiths, Tyler Norbett
Subs – Fraser Moir, Charlie Coffey, Tom Kelly, Joe Abbott, George Arnold
FARNBOROUGH OBG – Charlie Merrick, Craig Ralph, Ross Warburton, Ashley Bertrand, Connor Dobson, Lewis Chambers, Jack White, Paul Lee, Steve Townsend, Ryan Penton
Subs – Ray Knight, Kalum Diani, Dave Allen, Kearan Day, Kevin Lott
REFEREE – Mr Uddin
ASSISTANTS – Mr Maloney & Mr Howarth
FOURTH OFFICIAL – Mr Joy