Hayes & Yeading United retained their hold on the Jeff Ritson Trophy by the narrowest of margins, beating an excellent Wealdstone side on penalties after two hours of football ended all square.
United did not get off to a good start though. Just five minutes had elapsed when a needless free-kick was conceded on the edge of the area, Jamie O’Connell beat the wall and despite Alex Tokarczyk getting down to the ball it squirmed from his grasp and Lamin Jalloh was on hand to score from close range.
Chances were to be far from easy to come by in the first half as two fine footballing sides virtually cancelled each other out in the middle of the park. United’s first opening came on 16 minutes when Daniel Wishart picked off a loose pass just outside the area and unleashed a shot that Stones keeper Jack Franks did very well to push over.
Just before the half hour mark a loose pass at the other end saw Wealdstone’s impressive George Fierstone try his luck from 25 yards, two deflections later and the ball was nestled snugly in Tokarczyk’s midriff.
Minutes later George Isaac went close for United having latched onto a slide rule Wishart pass but his effort just cleared Franks’ crossbar.
The last minutes of the half saw a chance apiece. The first fell to United as Isaac found space on the left and crossed to an incoming Mark Goodman but he could only watch as his header sailed just the wrong side of the upright. Now in stoppage time and play had switched quickly to the other end where Parsa Salimbayat got to a long punt first but could only shoot weakly at Tokarczyk.
The United management changed things at half time with the introduction of Joakim Ehui to the forward line and we did not have to wait too long for this change to bear fruit.
With clear chances still few and far between, it was not until the 61st minute that either keeper looked in danger, and indeed this first opening of the half brought a deserved equaliser. Joel Jacobs swung in a corner from the right side that Ehui met with a firm header that appeared to go unmolested through a gaggle of players before nestling in the back of the Wealdstone net.
The final half hour of normal time saw the game open out a little but in fairness defences at both ends were still dominating the game. Leo Cunningham headed a Dean Worman corner over for United and then just a few minutes later Tokarczyk at the other end was on hand to casually reign in a 25 yard effort from O’Connell.
The final two minutes saw both sides create an excellent chance to avoid extra time, sadly both failed and we all had to freeze a little longer. United were first to try their luck as a Mark Goodman corner fell to Isaac with his back to goal, his overhead effort just clearing the bar. At the other end a swift charge down the left by Jamal Mattan saw him outpace Josh Christopher only to be denied by a strong arm save from Tokarczyk and the loose ball was forced away to safety.
Moving into stoppage time it was Worman’s turn to advance into the Stones area, his fierce drive from a tight angle being well saved by Franks and the rebound came too quickly to Isaac who saw his instantaneous effort go wide.
When it comes to chances in extra time I think tired legs were winning the battle as very little was created by either side, the closest effort coming from Ehui who were inches wide from 18 yards out.
And so we went to penalty kicks to decide the destination of the Jeff Ritson Trophy. The first 15 kicks all hit the net, without a keeper getting a touch, apart from Ehui’s kick that was saved by Franks before being ordered to be retaken by referee Mr Farrelly. Stones’ eighth kick was to be decisive as it was too high and cleared the crossbar meaning United had retained the Trophy that they had won for the first time last season.
Report by Kevin Watts. Photos by Ray Peploe.
United Man of the Match: Nathan Webb.