Knaresborough Town crowned NCEL League Cup champions

Knaresborough Town by Craig Dinsdale
Knaresborough Town by Craig Dinsdale

Knaresborough Town engraved their name onto the Northern Counties East League Cup after a penalty shoot-out victory over Eccleshill United.

Byron Littlefair’s cool penalty earned a 4-2 success on spot-kicks for Boro after a thrilling 2-2 draw at Bradford City’s Valley Parade.

Goalkeeper Weston Marau was Knaresborough’s hero as he saved one spot-kick and claimed the man of the match award for a string of spectacular saves.

However, it was striker Colin Heath who had taken Boro into extra-time with a brace against the Bradford opposition.

Heath opened the scoring inside ten minutes with a powerful strike from Blaine Hobson’s pull-back.

But Eccleshill levelled matters ten minutes later, bundling in a corner before prolific frontman Marcus Edwards put them ahead.

The Eagles had also struck the woodwork as both sides peppered the goals in a frantic 45 minutes.

The game continued to be played at full throttle in the second period.

And former Manchester United trainee Heath squared the scores straight after the restart with a precise effort into the corner.

Town took more than 200 fans to Bradford, and the supporters were in boisterous voice as their playedrs piled the Eagles under pressure.

However, Eccleshill, who headed into the clash having won ten straight matches and finishing two places above sixth-placed Boro in Division One, continued to threaten Marau’s goal too.

And Edwards was one of their forwards to have a free-kick tipped sensationally over the bar by the in-form Knaresborough stopper.

Heath was perhaps fortunate to stay on the pitch after clattering Ishmael Mills, having already received a yellow. And he was subsequently sacrificed by boss Brian Davey.

Neither side could muster a winner in normal time, and both team’s tired legs continued to push through the pain barrier to make the final compelling viewing.

Again, Marau denied Edwards in extra-time while Boro missed chances to grab the cup themselves.

Former Monaco and Leeds United winger Seb Carole had arrived on the field for the Reds and he saw a chance blaze over before a late free-kick sailed past the post.

That left the shoot-out to decide where the trophy would end up, and Carole, who has played in the Champions League, set the ball rolling for Boro by firing the first penalty into the top corner.

Marau then pulled off a fine save to deny Edwards before Dave Thomas struck the base of the post.

Further goals came from Danny Wright and Jim Bradley for Boro but Eagles winger Charlie Flaherty then fluffed his lines and sent the ball into the stands.

That presented Littlefair with the chance to win the cup, and the left-midfielder sent the mammoth support into raptures before his teammates joined his celebrations.

The victory handed Knaresborough a first trophy at semi-professional level, and in only their second season since joining the NCEL.

Knaresborough: Weston Marau, Paul Stansfield (Dave Thomas), Nick Radcliffe, Matt Duerden, Will Lenehan, Jim Bradley, George Eustance, Dom Wilson, Colin Heath, Blaine Hobson, Byron Littlefair

Sub: Liam Gray, Tom Osbourne, , Danny Wright, Seb Carole

Eccleshill United: Ryan Smith, Ishmael Mills, Tyler Tarango, Jermaine Spencer, Ryan Jones, Tyson Newell, Aaron Sanchez, Doug Stevenson, Marcus Edwards, Connor Shefte, Charlie Flaherty

Subs: Reid Harbach, Dan Man, Zac Le Cassse, Brendon Roslund