Knutsford HC regain Cheshire Plate
Knutsford regained the coveted Cheshire Plate on Sunday, defeating a spirited Bebington side in a 9 goal thriller. Losing in the final last year became a fading memory when with 7 seconds remaining James Howard scored the goal that brought the Trophy back to its rightful home in Knutsford.
This result will live long in the memory of the travelling ‘Black Army’, who once again crammed into the Deeside International Stadium. Despite the roller coaster ride their team gave them, the travelling supporters were a key factor in driving this tenacious team to victory as the seconds ebbed away.
Knutsford were confident going into the game, having defeated this Wirral outfit twice with ease in the regular season. On this occasion, Bebington employed different tactics, sitting deep and flooding the midfield with 5 players. Knutsford were unable to make inroads and the Bebington confidence visibly grew.
Knutsford lost Dan Allan to injury in the early stages and Knutsford defenders were edgy on a sticky pitch against a determined opposition. An early mistake from Mark Fletcher led to an unlikely own-goal from David Price. Then minutes later another individual error, this time from Simon Locke contributed to a second goal.
Many teams at 2-0 down would be disheartened, but Knutsford have been the comeback kings this season. With nothing to lose in a cup final, Knutsford poured forward with attacking intent.
Mathew Hodge, Ian Ward and David Price began to dictate the tempo in midfield, sending Dave Evans, Mike Power and Mark Hadley on several attacking forays. A goal was imperative and this was delivered by the enigmatic Tristan Baddeley. He caught the Bebington defenders flat-footed, shooting on the turn from close range to deliver a crushing blow.
Coach Paul Armstrong gave the team encouragement at half time and Knutsford cranked up the pressure, but the opposition had not read the script as they forced home a short corner to regain a two goal lead.
If Knutsford felt that their chance had gone, they did not show it. Mark Fletcher, Simon Locke, Graham Heath and Johnny Price were now indomitable in defence and thwarted Bebington with some brave defending. Between the posts, Simon McCoy was assertive and vocal in pursuit of his second cup medal.
The game then became a one-way assault on the Bebington goal as Knutsford threw caution to the wind and pushed for another foothold. Deliverance came from a well trodden path and the ritual of two exceptional Dave Price drag-flicks. One left and one right put Knutsford on level terms in quick succession. Only minutes later, the dazzling Mike Power had a shot on goal blocked illegally and a penalty flick was rightly awarded. Price slotted home with great poise for 4-3 and surely the Cheshire Plate.
There was to be a dramatic twist in the tail as another short-corner was forced past McCoy for an equaliser with only 3 minutes left. Extra-time loomed but Knutsford, buoyed by their fans, poured forward in droves. With 30 seconds remaining, Locke, Evans and Price combined on the left. Johnny Price managed a shot on goal and a combination of Evans and Howard bundled the ball over the line.
David Price was rightly awarded the Man of the Match award for an imperious hat-trick, but the way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the team will never fulfil its potential. This was truly a squad performance and each of the 15 players can consider the part they played as crucial to the win.
As Hodge held aloft the trophy with his son Jamon it evoked memories of Dennis Wise in the 2000 FA cup final. Hodge put victory down to innovation and preparation “A mind once stretched by a new idea never regains its original dimensions. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is thus not an act, but a habit.”
Knutsford’s season has now had a critical shot of adrenalin that will assist the team’s push for promotion with only 2 games remaining. Knutsford welcome Colwyn Bay to Westfield Drive next Saturday (2.15pm).