Chatteris Town pulled off an unlikely cup success after holding onto a 2-1 lead against higher-league Great Shelford.
A game that could have been predicted to go one way, but from the first couple minutes, it was not to be. The first spell of attacking play sparked the first chance, which was well-taken by the Lilies.
A four-on-two situation ended with a curling effort into the top right corner from Jack Whiting, sparking raucous noise from the travelling fans and a hope that a first Cliff Bullen Challenge Cup in 51 years may be heading to West Street.
Order was resumed soon after as star man Craig Gillies failed to find a teammate once thwarted by their opponent’s number one.
A spell of midfield possession for both sides created an opportunity for Ashley Taylor’s side to take an early two-goal advantage, but Gillies’ precise spot-kick was stopped confidently.
From what could have been a controversial free-kick at one end turned into a counter-attack at the other as the Kershaw Premier League leaders were able to pounce on a defenceless Lilies to equalise via Tom Barham on 24 minutes.
As the higher-placed side grew ever more so into the contest, they may have been left wondering why referee Gavin Jolley did not award a penalty after what seemed a blatant push from behind. Despite that, the Fenland outfit were fortunate to still be level heading into the break.
Fluency became sparse after the interval as neither side could capitalise with the ball as misplaced passes and hard-fought tackles prevented anyone from finding a foothold. But one lookalike of a decent effort went astray as Gary Smith’s looped cross for Lilies forward Gillies bounced out for a goal-kick on 55 minutes.
The ratio of over-powered shots was shared as Great Shelford blasted well wide of the target after promising left-wing play. Close calls are somewhat a commodity as Chatteris’ Ben Collett was lucky to gather at the second attempt inside two yards from his goal.
Set pieces became a rarity, but the competent Ben Matthews superbly executed an always-dipping and quite brilliant free-kick on 69 minutes from around 20 yards out of the goalkeeper’s reach. Although undeserved on the balance of play, their efforts could not be represented better.
Defending a lead by high clearances and no real consistency is a traditional form of defence, which did not go amiss as the Kershaw Senior A promotion hopefuls did just that. Even pinball in and around the Chatteris goalmouth could not be converted due to determined stability at the back.
But a gutsy performance was enough to claim an unlikely success against the odds. Who said that the underdog could not win?
Chatteris Town manager Ashley Taylor said:
“The first word that comes to mind is proud. I said to the lads before the game to ‘go out and do yourselves proud’. They took it on board and they did it tonight. Although this is the biggest cup of them all and the one where we felt most relaxed in because we wasn’t expected to win, so I think that played in our favour. Before the game, I said to ‘go out and play’, and by doing that and having a relaxed mindset, there’s less pressure.
“When we play better teams, we defend better. There have been times where we have played weaker teams and we have been sloppy. Tonight, the concentration from start to finish was superb. We knew we had to defend well and stay focused. By doing that, we knew we would get the opportunities and it has worked.
“The fans at the end were driving them (the players) on and it made a massive difference.”
Chatteris Town: Ben Collett, Stuart Porter, Jack Whiting, Aidan Hollis, Simon Howard ©, Scott Callaghan, Josh Dodman (sub Alex Ashley, 90’), Ben Matthews, Craig Gillies, Gary Smith (sub Carl Powell, 72’), Lee Barnett. Unused substitutes: Josh Joyce, Anton Kaval, Ben Russell.
Great Shelford: Sam Clare, Archie Lenton, Ricky Woodrow (C) , Jon Barber, Luke Upcott, Jordan Lambert, Samuel Munns (sub Nick Finney, 72’), Michael Lambert, Tom Barham, Nick Impey, George Lunn (sub Ed Richens 69’). Unused substitutes: Grant Mansell, Karl Edwards, Nick Baggaley.
Ratings: Chatteris Town – Collett 7, Porter 7, Whiting 8, Hollis 6, Howard 8, Callaghan 9, Dodman 6, Matthews 7, Gillies 6, Smith 6, Barnett 7. Subs: Powell 6, Ashley N/A.
Great Shelford – Clare 6, Lenton 6, Woodrow 6, Barber 6, Upcott 6, Lambert 7, Barham 7, Impey 6, Lunn 5. Subs: Finney 6, Richens 6.
Goals: Lilies – Whiting (2’); Matthews (69’). Great Shelford – Barham (24′).
Cautions: Lilies – Callaghan (yellow for foul); Ashley (yellow for dissent).
Referee: Mr G Jolley (7).