Seventh and fourth in their respective leagues, silverware for either Chatteris Town Reserves and Whittlesey Athletic Reserves could propel chances of finishing the season on a high.
A battling effort from both sides, with keeping the ball somewhat a prized possession as play seemed to resort to testing each other’s aerial abilities, cup nerves perhaps playing a part.
But the first sign of attacking intent came early on in the fifth minute when Whittlesey striker Jack Carter seemed to find a path into the Lilies’ box early on in the first period, an attack soon fizzled out, but a sign of attacking intent.
Aerial battles were apparent, the Peterborough League outfit more prone to this when trying to venture forward.
But as possession increased, so did the number of Lilies men perched near their 18-yard box, as further pressure mounted and wasted attempts rose.
Overall control switched, however, in favour of the Lilies, and it paid off as James Harness was taken down by goalkeeper Charlie Bradshaw on 35 minutes, but he blazed his spot-kick over.
Not too much to differentiate between the two after the break, Benji Brittin’s men again required to seize any potential openings their opponents tried to fashion.
Contentious decisions prolonged as referee Paul Norman tried to avoid any crowd influence, as well as player frustration that looked to become the norm in this contest.
If luck was on James Harness’ side, his flicked header near the 18-yard mark may have avoided the last man, alongside his fearsome effort from distance as his side’s opponents had to endure a Lilies’ revival.
It could have been all so different had pinball in the Whittlesey six-yard box had been converted, if it wasn’t for Bradshaw’s fine reactions.
Cursed by their lack of fortune, the Lilies were indeed fortunate to make it to extra-time after substitute Rob Hambidge’s close-range header agonisingly looped over Rayner’s crossbar in a game of close calls.
A breakthrough in open play never looked likely, but a moment of mishandling was the turning point, as Rayner spilt an easy-looking claim in his area to Hambidge who put his side in front with a slick back-heel, 102 minutes into a lively encounter.
Rejuvenated and full of belief, the game was still alive as Matt Walshe was the man to eventually find a way to goal after good work from the hard-working Harness.
But ten men behind the ball proved to not be enough as Rik Hailstone sealed a last-gasp cup win and last-minute heartache for what was a committed and determined Lilies side.
Two cup finals lost, but the second-string can still hold their head high after a performance full of courage and fightback.
Chatteris Town Reserves head-coach Benji Brittin said:
“The lads battled their hearts out and showed character towards the end. We missed an opportunity, they capitalised on it and it’s just one of those things. That’s the way it goes and football is cruel.
“Both teams definitely turned up tonight. I’m so proud of the boys. They gave it their all and they couldn’t do anymore. We’ll move on from this, they showed character for the club and they did everything I asked.
“They still want to prove themselves as quality players, and they are. It doesn’t matter who you play in a cup final, you need a run of luck and they just wanted it that bit more. We’ll push on in the league now and show what we’re made of.”
Chatteris Town Reserves: Ryan Rayner, Tony Brown © (sub Matt Walshe, 64’; sub Moden, 83’), Scott Goodger, Dean Saunders, Will Mason (sub Ransome, 90′), Brandon Ransome (sub Liam Birch, 45’; sub Brown, 90’; sub Mason, 105’), Tom Moden (sub Brown, 83’), Josh Dodman, Josh Brittin (sub Matthew Eggleton, 74’), James Harness, Craig Gillies.
Chatteris Town Reserves ratings:
Rayner 6, Brown 5, Goodger 5, Saunders 5, Mason 5, Ransome 5, Moden 5, Dodman 5, Brittin 5, Harness 6, Gillies 6. Subs: Birch 5, Walshe 6, Eggleton 5.
Cautions: Moden – foul.
Referee: Paul Norman – 6.