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Kingstonian 3-2 Kettering Town

Twelve months ago, it was an amazing thing to see a Kingstonian side at Wembley, and this time round the feeling was exactly the same believe it or not. Ever since the demolition of Sutton, eyes have been focussed on this day - Saturday May 13th - and when it finally came it did so with glorious sunshine. Throughout the Royal Borough groups met up and made their way to the north of the city to the famous Twin Towers. There may not have been quite as many as last year, but nonetheless it was a joy to see the numbers of K's supporters increase roughly ten-fold from a normal league game.

At 14.51 precisely, the players made their way from their dressing rooms, through the long Wembley tunnel and out into the stadium itself. The K's team which Geoff Chapple led contained three real surprises - Mark Harris and Simon Stewart were preferred to Derek Allan and Eddie Saunders, whilst Ronnie Green was handed the chance of a lifetime alongside Amara Simba. The team contained eight of those from the previous Wembley visit, but nobody was really sure whether that would be an advantage or not.

Kettering were trying to make up for their 1979 Trophy final defeat, and they set about their task well. The K's defence, having played together so many times, should have been on top, but it was those from Northampton who had the best of the opening moments. There was a shot from Tarkan Mustafa which spun wide, but other than that the chances fell to those in red.

Gary Setchell provided one such chance when he beat Mustafa on the left. His cross went to the far post and there was Dale Watkins - awarded his England semi-pro cap earlier in the day - to connect. His headed effort was over, but it provided an early wake-up call for the defenders.

The wake-up was not heeded however, as Watkins was allowed another, better, chance just after. Matt Fisher played in Phil Brown on the right, he aimed his cross to the far post where Setchell headed back. Watkins met the ball some eight yards out and really should have done better than he did. Farrelly leaped to his left and must have been glad to see the ball go outside the post, as he probably wouldn't have got to it had the effort been on target.

K's tried to get into the game themselves, and Eddie Akuamoah, playing a deeper role than is normal for him, provided one early moment of excitement. He ran past 2 defenders on the left hand side and sent a good ball across goal. Amara Simba was lurking but Craig Norman just got there first to send the ball wide for a corner-kick. Pitcher then decided to show the watching viewers at home that he was playing. He picked up a ball from Simba near the half-way line and took off on a superb run. Carl Adams, Fisher and Setchell were left in his wake, but he spoiled the run with a woeful cross.

His next cross was much better and almost gave K's the lead though. The ball coming in from the right was aimed towards the far post, where both Eddie and Simba were challenging. Neither managed to get a touch and the ball rolled away harmlessly.

Up until this point the game had been a close contest. Kettering had started the better of the two teams, but after weathering the storm K's had come back into the game more and more. This was proved in a numerical sense on forty minutes when Kingstonian took the lead. Mark Harris won a great header in his own half and the ball landed on the left at Ronnie Green's feet. His pass to Simba allowed the Frenchman to prod through for Eddie, whose speed took him clear of the defence. One touch took him into the area, and the next sent the ball past Adam Sollitt in the Kettering goal.

It was a superb finish from Eddie, and totally fitting that the longest serving K's player should score the goal. His celebration wasn't the most ostentatious ever seen, but then he has got an image to protect.

Despite there being just four minutes to go until the break, and despite Ian McDonald's advice to calm down, Kettering almost managed to get back into the game straight away. A long ball fell to Phil Brown out on the right, and his shot had to be very well stopped by Farrelly. And there was even another chance for the holders, when Mustafa tried a one-two with Eddie only for the ball to fall to the goalscorer on the edge of the box. He went past one defender and played the ball across the face of goal. He might have shot himself, but he had seen that Simba was in a better position - unfortunately he couldn't quite stretch enough as Chris Perkins cleared.

The half-time break allowed Kettering to re-organise, with Dale Watkins being replaced. The Kingstonian management team must have been pretty happy with their lot, and no obvious changes were made. But with hindsight they probably should have been. And so began an amazing twenty-five minute spell of football.

It was the red and black shirted ones who started the second period the best, and with it they gave Geoff Chapple the first taste of being behind at Wembley. It took just ten minutes for the equaliser to come. Mark Harris needlessly pushed Brett McNamara in the back out on the left wing and a free-kick was awarded. Adams took the kick and sent the ball to the far post. It was met by the head of Kettering's skipper Colin Vowden, and via Matt Crossley's back, the ball snuck inside Farrelly's right-hand post.

What might well be the second most talked about incident of the game gave Kettering what they thought was their second goal of the afternoon. Junior Kadi, who had been performing very well in midfield, played a long ball back to Steve Farrelly. Under pressure from substitute Lee Hudson, the goalkeeper decided to try and beat the on-rushing player. He did so with ease, but when he looked up he must have seen the whites of McNamara's eyes, as he was also pressuring. Instead of kicking away (isn't hindsight a lovely thing?) Farrelly decided to try to beat the second player too. He failed miserably and ended up just kicking the ball against his knee.

With Hudson retreating, the ball bounced forward, Hudson ran backwards from an offside position and planted the ball into the empty net. Farrelly fell to the ground with his head in his hands whilst the "scorer" whipped off his shirt and sprinted towards the far corner of the ground.

Unbeknown to him though, the linesman had, quite correctly, put his flag into the air as soon as the ball had struck McNamara, and the goal was wiped out. Kettering will probably complain that the goal should have stood, but there is no doubt that the linesman made the correct decision. By being in that position, McNamara was both seeking to gain an advantage (he was trying to score a goal), and interfering with play (he scored a goal). Either one would be good enough to gain an offside decision, but both made it sure.

But just five minutes later Kettering did have the lead. Brown played a ball forward to McNamara who was on the left. He touched the ball past Mustafa and sprinted after it, but as soon as he got into the area he fell to the ground. The referee thought that contact had been made and pointed to the spot, but television replays confirmed what every K's fan (and family day-outers) knew - that he'd tripped over his own feet.

That didn't bother Craig Norman, as he coolly slotted the ball past Farrelly to record his eleventh penalty of the season. And so after the confidence of half-time, with less than twenty minutes gone of the second half, the lead had been surrendered to Town and things looked bleak for the boys in yellow. The grip on the Trophy was loosening all of the time.

But if ever there was a team that will not give up in cup football then it is this Kingstonian side. The team-spirit is remarkable, and that can be the only thing which finally brought them through. The fightback began almost straight away with Matt Crossley sending a free-kick high into the Kettering box. Carl Shutt headed upwards and Mark Harris challenged Perkins for the dropping ball. There may have been an elbow from the K's man, but there were no complaints. The ball dropped invitingly for Eddie on the edge of the six yard box, and another sweet left-footed finish brought K's back into the game.

Yet the initiative swung back the way of Kettering. A Kingstonian attack broke down, and all of a sudden Colin Luckett was faced with two on-rushing attackers - Hudson and McNamara - and nobody to help. McNamara was sent through with a header, but Farrelly did very well to block on the edge of the box. But then instead of going back into his goal, he tried to prod the ball off of McNamara's toe, only to see it drop to Fisher. With only Crossley on the line the chance was a good one, but the shot was high leaving K's relieved.

Simba, who had been pretty quite for most of the game, finally got into the action around the seventy minute mark. A tackle from Eddie (yes, Akuamoah that is) gave him the ball, and he played a ball out to the right. Kadi played in Tarkan and his cross was headed back across goal by Ronnie Green. Simba leaped high, but just sent his right-footed volley the wrong side of the post. Would he ever score at Wembley?

Well, yes. Tarkan, who had been impressing those watching at home once again, picked up the ball deep inside his own half of the field, and took off on one of his "head-down, aim-straight" runs. This one worked perfectly though as the Kettering midfield opened up for him. He reached the edge of the area with ease, and unleashed a venomous shot at Sollitt. The England reserve goalkeeper spilled the shot when he should have held on and there was the Frenchman waiting for just such an opportunity. He chipped the ball over the strewn keeper and, after what seemed an age, the ball dropped, hit the post and spun in. Three-two to Kingstonian.

There was to be no looking back from this point, and in fact most of the remaining chances fell to the new-Brazil. One problem did present itself though, when Kadi went down with a bout of cramp. With David Leworthy already waiting to make an appearance, a debate between Chapple and McDonald decided to replace the midfielder with the veteran attacker. Leaving K's with five defenders, four attackers but only one midfielder. This was rectified soon after when Ronnie Green made way for Luke Basford, with Colin Luckett moving up to double the midfield strength.

Geoff Pitcher was presented with the chance to really wrap things up as we moved into injury time. Mark Harris won another towering header at the back, and Basford passed left to Simba. With Leworthy, Pitcher and Basford available, Simba chose to pass to Pitcher and leave the number eight with a one-on-one with Sollitt. Unfortunately he hit his shot straight at the goalkeeper and then, while Kettering broke, decided to do a spot of sun-bathing by laying down in their area.

Colin Luckett was also given a chance to score a fourth when, with Kettering pushing forward desperately, Basford played a one-two with Simba. His cross from the left was missed at the far post by Vowden, Leworthy turned it back in and Luckett fired wide with his right foot.

But it really didn't matter, as within seconds the whistle had gone. Arms were raised, cheers were cheered, and K's kept their grip on the Trophy for yet another year. The celebrations were pretty similar to last year's - they were just at a different end and with different coloured shirts on. Matt Crossley allowed David Leworthy to join him in the lifting of the trophy, and Pitcher and Harris' kids joined in on the pitch - until a Wembley steward told them to stop kicking a bottle around the penalty area that is.

Once again celebrations continued back at Kingsmeadow. Nearly all of the players turned up and the usual speeches were made in praise of the team, management and supporters. And then, on the Sunday, another open topped bus parade. This year though, there were actually people out on the streets of both New Malden and Kingston to see the victors. And with the mayor pledging the council's full support for the club from this point onwards, hopes must be high that a sign will actually be placed on Kingston Road to tell people exactly where Kingsmeadow is.

But the Trophy didn't need telling where to go - it was coming home. In the last three years under Geoff Chapple, so much silverware has been won that it's getting silly. Yes the league is the most important, but with the ground certain to be ready for next season's attempt, that's still twelve months away. As it is, the best prize to play for was the FA Trophy, and with the man with the midas touch around, there can't have been much doubt that yellow and blue ribbons would be required at the end of the game. The players have done him, and us, proud - but without Geoff Chapple around, things would certainly be gloomier. He even managed to brighten up a day which was the sunniest of the year so far. By bringing home the Trophy.

Sat 13th May 2000
Kingsmeadow Stadium
FA Trophy Final
Akuamoah (2), Simba
Kettering Town2
1Steve Farrelly
2Tarkan Mustafa
3Colin Luckett
4Matt Crossley
5Simon Stewart14
6Mark Harris
7Junior Kadi12
8Geoff Pitcher
9Ronnie Green16
10Amara Simba
11Eddie Akuamoah
12David Leworthy7
13Richard Hurst
14Eddie Saunders5
15Derek Allan
16Luke Basford9
Man of the Match
Eddie Akuamoah
Eddie Akuamoah
Match Report By
Gary Ekins