Hirst the hero as Westville sink Fitzwilliam Arms in dramatic finale
Westville FC conjured up a last-minute penalty strike to win 2-1 in a thriller against Fitzwilliam Arms, and became the 2015-16 champions of the Sheffield & Hallamshire County FA Sunday Senior Challenge Cup Competition, supported by Owlerton Greyhound Stadium.
Fitzwilliam’s Brett Lovell cancelled out Luke Sykes’ early goal for Westville. The match appeared destined for extra-time when Kieran Hirst popped up with the winning goal from the penalty spot on the final minute of the game.
The photo shows Peter Clarke, Assistant General Manager of Owlerton Stadium, second right presenting the cup to Westville captain, Daniel Monfredi.
With two confident sides, the final at Rotherham United’s New York Stadium promised to be a well-matched encounter. Corners were conceded at either end in a tense opening few minutes, as both teams tried to find an early breakthrough.
Rotherham-based Fitzwilliam Arms came close on 12 minutes, as Alex Wiles capitalised on a Westville defensive lapse, but shot inches wide. Moments later, Nick Szczepkowski’s header from a corner was well-gathered by Westville goalkeeper Daniel Morton.
Playing in their blue-and-yellow kit, Mexborough-based Westville forced a finger-tip save off the opposition keeper Jason Foster following Adam Stead’s dangerous-looking cross from the left flank.
With 22 minutes in the clock Westville opened the scoring, as Sykes rose highest to nod home from a corner.
The team from Rotherham now cranked up a gear in search of an equaliser, cheered on by their passionate fans. Szczepkowski twice snuck past the Westville rearguard close to half-time, but found Morton bravely denying him on both occasions.
Westville hung on to their slender 1-0 lead at the break.
The second half saw Fitzwilliam Arms maintain supremacy in possession, looking to bounce back.
The pressure paid dividends on 55 minutes, as Lovell outjumped his marker inside the penalty area to head home from a perfectly-delivered corner by Ryan Johnson.
Fitzwilliam now pressed for glory after the equaliser. However, the players in blue-and-yellow weathered the storm stubbornly.
Extra-time looked imminent, but there was a late twist in store.
Westville sprung forward in a counter-attack, with Jamie Williams bearing down on the Fitzwilliam goal down the left when Alex Shaw clumsily fouled him inside the penalty box. The referee signalled to the spot, and Hirst stepped up to find the net on 90 minutes, sparking wild celebrations from the Westville bench and their supporters.
Fitzwilliam nearly equalised again in added time. But an unmarked Lovell headed inches wide from Johnson’s diagonal cross from midfield.
Westville manager Stuart Harper said: “We took our chance in the first half. We showed composure when they got on top for about 10 minutes. Second half, we knew they would be coming at us. We’ve watched them four or five times, and they are a smashing set of lads. They work hard; they have got pace all over the pitch. And lucky for us, we had the breakthrough towards the end. In cups, you need luck.
“But we did what we do best. We dug deep and showed character. It is a fantastic achievement for a good bunch of lads, who are good mates on and off the pitch. When things are down, they don’t give up. They keep going.”
A good, competitive and enjoyable game was kept flowing by the four match officials referee Adam Burgess, assistant referees Gareth Thomas and Sam Bowen, and fourth official Colin Crossland.
Sheffield & Hallamshire CFA are also very grateful to Rotherham United for hosting the game.