STEEPLE Claydon U‘12s clinched the EQT Shield Final at the MK Dons’ Stadium MK by beating fellow League 1 opponents Deanshanger Colts 5-4 in a dramatic penalty shoot-out.
The game took a dramatic twist only 10 seconds in when Claydon lost Max Nagy to injury, a major blow because he has been superb all year and would have no doubt graced the final.
Undaunted, Claydon pushed forward and took an early lead, to the delight of their vocal support, when Dan Chittenden finished neatly, 1-0.
Deanshanger however are a good side and they came back strongly carving open a clear goal scoring opportunity only to be thwarted by Alex Iyengar’s last-ditch block. Alex has been in imperious form all season long. Claydon created several early chances but could not extend their lead as the agile Deanshanger keeper saved well. This seemed to inspire the opposition and they scored four unanswered goals without really dominating proceedings - the game seemed to be slipping away from Claydon.
Just before half-time however Claydon gained new hope when Dan touched home Sam Gray’s goal bound shot to make it 2-4 at the break.
Claydon began the second half with new belief, the midfield of Matthew Storey, Craig Coxon, James Corbett and Izak Andrews beginning to dominate.
Within five minutes of the re-start Claydon had pulled it back to 3-4 when Bill finished clinically. The momentum was now with Claydon but against the run of play Deanshanger made it 3-5.
With less than 10 minutes to go team captain Craig turned onto his right foot and shaped a shot beyond the diving keeper from the edge of the box, 4-5.
With two minutes to go Bill’s sweetly struck right foot drive beat the excellent Deanshanger keeper, 5-5.
Unbelievably Claydon had the chance to win it with almost the last kick of the game but Bill’s shot was a whisker wide so with the game tied we went to penalties.
The destiny of the trophy now rested in the hands of Jay Flowers, who has been in great form in goal for Claydon, and the five nominated penalty takers.
Deanshanger scored their first four penalties.
Dan made it 1-1 with a powerful drive high to the keeper’s left. Craig slotted his low to the same side while Bill found the opposite corner before Alex calmly made it 4-4.
It was now sudden death and the pressure really was on. In that moment Jay sprung to his left to tip the ball over – a magnificent save.
He had given Claydon a kick to win it and it was Liam Anderson who walked forward. Excellent all year, Liam a stylish defender, made absolutely no mistake with the spot kick to seal a 5-4 win and the championship.