UEA Football Club men’s first team capped an impressive season by lifting the Mummery Cup for the first time under the floodlights at the FDC in Bowthorpe, to complete a local league and league cup double.
Drawing 2-2 against Long Stratton at full time thanks to a Luke Young penalty and a headed own goal, UEA went on to win 4-2 in extra time with Mo Hassan and Ryan Swift sealing the victory.
It caps a successful season in which UEA have won both the Anglian Combination Division 1 and BUCS Midlands 2A titles, reached the final of the BUCS Midlands Conference Cup and the quarter-finals of the Norfolk Senior Cup.
Long Stratton came into the game on the back of a good season, having finished third in the Anglian Combination Premier Division, the league into which UEA have been promoted for next term.
A relatively quiet first half saw UEA creating the best chances from midfield. Hassan was a real livewire for UEA, with man of the match Marcus Legg an assured presence using his experience to anchor the midfield. Wing-back Henry Clark was also looking dangerous down the left with some superb movement. 54-goal top-scorer Swift was a calming presence as UEA eased into the game, keeping the pressure on Long Stratton by retaining possession around their area in the cagey opening minutes.
The action really got underway five minutes from half-time when Young was fouled on the edge of the area, keeping his cool to drive the resulting penalty into the bottom-right corner and put UEA 1-0 up.
However, soon after, Long Stratton netted an equaliser against the run of play through Solomon Pope to go into the break at one apiece.
UEA continued to assert their dominance in the second period, spraying the ball around midfield and creating good supply lines to the forward duo of Young and Swift. Two good early chances came for Hassan, the second after good hold up play from Swift. UEA goalkeeper Tom Smith was then on guard to catch a header from a Long Stratton corner.
Despite UEA’s relative comfort, Long Stratton then took the lead. A looping header at the back post from Anglian Combination Premier Division top scorer James Bemrose evaded UEA keeper Smith to put his side ahead.
It is to UEA’s credit that they continued to stick to their game plan and press forward. Hassan put a free-kick straight into goalkeeper Ross Bilham’s hands, but soon after UEA’s Lebanese midfielder had an assist on the board. A cross in from Hassan was deflected in by Long Stratton defender Pope, the own goal cancelling out his previous effort to see the teams level again.
UEA continued to pile on the pressure. Tomasz Siemienczuk had an effort ruled out for offside, Swift saw a shot parried for a corner with Young’s delivery finding towering centre-back Richard Black in the box before a great run and cross from Young set up Hassan who fired wide.
There was a nervy moment for UEA when a Long Stratton bicycle kick and resulting shot had to be dealt with by skipper Ben George, recently back from England Universities duty. The resulting corner was headed off the line by the solid and organised UEA defence.
Creative forward Young was coming into the game more during the second period as UEA piled on the pressure in search of the winner, with the students well on top. After good work from Swift, a deflected Young shot was punched away by Bilham, the last action of normal time in which Long Stratton had done well to hold on to the draw.
UEA sealed the trophy in two ten-minute periods of added time.
UEA kept up the momentum in the first period and both sides had a series of half-chances, including some superb hold-up play from Swift on the edge of the area which found him shooting space, his parried effort put wide by Clark. Smith also had to be alert to pounce on the ball and snuff out a dangerous Long Stratton attack. Bilham then did well to hold a Black header from a corner, with Frankie Bolter rushing in and ready to capitalise on any mishandling from the stopper.
UEA continued apace in the second period of added time. Young exhibited more superb skill, a tame shot from an unmarked Hassan was saved by Bilham and substitute Callum Mooney had an attempt blocked that on another day could easily have been an assist.
However, Hassan finally put his side ahead, hitting his shot with much more power and conviction than his previous attempt, followed by rapturous celebrations with UEA’s fans.
Club President Jody Scowcroft replaced Hassan and Will Oxbrow came on for hard-working midfielder Siemienczuk to add fresh legs to UEA’s midfield as Long Stratton grew increasingly tired and frustrated. Bemrose was reduced to a shot wide from range.
UEA smelt blood and continued to push forward. A Swift cross just missed Young sliding in, before Scowcroft fired just wide. Desperate Long Stratton penalty calls were waved away and UEA broke. Swift deservedly scored UEA’s fourth after good interplay with Young around the almost static opposition defence – top scorer Swift’s 55th of the season in all competitions.
And with that, the curtain fell on a season that defied expectations for UEA men’s Football 1s.
It’s fitting that it was a goal from Swift assisted by Young that ended the final game this incarnation of the UEA team will play together – the pair have developed a telepathic understanding resulting in dozens upon dozens of goals that UEA will be hard pressed to replace next year.
UEA Head of Football Paul Neary reflected: ‘We were the better side, created more chances, played with more heart, played with more desire to win. We were first to the ball, you wouldn’t think that [Long Stratton] were in a higher division on that performance.
‘That said, Long Stratton were very well organised. Potentially they underestimated us, but we played our own game, we didn’t get overawed by the occasion and we proved what a good side we are.’
On Bolter’s recent introduction, he added: ‘Frankie came in, he took his opportunity. He gives 100 percent. He works hard, he works for the team and when you do things like that, you deserve to keep your shirt.’
Asked about the previous day’s 1-0 Derby Day loss, Neary explained: ‘I don’t think we got out of third gear, we had an eye on tonight and didn’t want to get injured. When that happens it’s hard to get that mindset of playing at 100 percent.’
On reflection, Neary is satisfied with his first season in the UEA hotseat. The players had a long team huddle after the trophy presentation, which Neary reflected on: ‘It was all about celebrating success, and we’ve got a lot to celebrate this season. On and off the pitch we’ve been very, very good, very motivated and out there to win. And we’ve definitely done that this year.
‘I’m disappointed we didn’t win the BUCS cup, it’s great winning stuff but the disappointment comes with not winning that. We were eight minutes away. But on balance, if someone told me we’d have two leagues, one cup, one reserve cup and another reserve cup final still to play, plus the women’s 2s promoted, I’d have taken that.’
UEA: Tom Smith; Alfred Sylmeta, Henry Clark, Ben George (c), Richard Black, Frankie Bolter; Marcus Legg, Tomasz Siemienczuk, Mohammed Hassan; Ryan Swift, Luke Young. Subs: Will Oxbrow, Jody Scowcroft, Callum Mooney.
There was more silverware for UEA FC last week, as the reserves also won a local league cup in extra-time at the FDC. Luke Johnson’s side beat Belton 6-2 to defend their CS Morley Cup title, netting four in the additional period as the Yarmouth-based opposition tired.