On Sunday 21st May, Stokey FC took their place in the League Cup Final v Peacock FC. The lead up to the final was a tense affair, given that Peacock had beaten Stokey 4-3 in the quarter-finals of the Jubilee Cup earlier that season. The pressure was on Stokey to deliver against a team that was confident of another victory.
Match-day came and, as anticipated, the players and managers were in a buoyant mood. A lot of discussion had taken place about how we would be victorious on the day. We had the traditional Stokey FC cup final brunch, where tactics were discussed over a light meal. The mood was good and the players were ready. So many of the Stokey family had pulled together to prepare for this momentous occasion, so the players were under pressure to deliver – just the way we like it.
We arrived at the venue in good time and were taken through a strenuous workout. We knew that when the whistle blew it was likely to be a battle, and Stokey’s soldiers were equipped and ready. Peacock applied the early pressure and were on top for the initial stages, but were unable to make their pressure count. As Stokey started to get a foothold in the game Peacock advanced and scored the opening goal. Both teams knew the significance of the first goal. Whoever drew first blood would be able to relax more and control the game. Not to fear and never one to stay down, Stokey soon responded through Sean Rennie (aka TJ). Stokey were back in the game and our fans continued to drive us on. The remainder of the first half was a tense affair and, quite possibly, both sides were pleased to hear the half-time whistle. Honours were even and time for the players, managers and fans to catch their breath.
Peacock started the second half much the way they started the game and were on top from the whistle. They enjoyed lots of possession and territory, but much like the first half, they were unable to make their possession count. Then, similar to the first half when Stokey were playing their way into the game, Peacock scored again and led 2-1. From there they began to grow in confidence but the third goal, that would possibly have secured the game, proved rather elusive. Peacock began to play with poise but Stokey were not to be outdone and somewhat against the run of play Stokey scored another equalizer, again through Sean Rennie. We had managed to draw level again and knew that if we were able to get our noses in front for the first time in the game then that would be the proverbial ‘dagger through the heart’ for Peacock. The remainder of the second half was a rather even and fiercely fought battle and the whistle blew, sending the final into extra time.
The first 15 minutes of extra time was a rather cagey affair, with both teams not wanting to concede the first goal. However, both teams managed to create decent openings but were unable to take their chances. The game then went into the second period of extra time and both teams had that notion in the back of their minds that we were only 15 minutes from penalty kicks deciding the final. This was a feat that no one wanted and would not have been a fitting way to draw this final to a close. With that in mind, Stokey roared forward and scored through Andre Morris (aka Agga) to take the lead for the first time in this final. At such a critical and late stage in the game we knew we were going to face an onslaught from Peacock, as they laid siege to our goal. Needless to say Stokey defended as though our lives depended on it, making crucial tackles and interceptions at key times. We drew strength from our vibrant support and in the background we glimpsed the silver trophy shining in the mid-summer heat. Our focus now was about just getting over the line. We dug deep and the final whistle was like music to our ears. We had done it. Stokey were victorious in another cup final. What a way to beat a team that had already beaten us and came into the final confident of victory.
We thanked our opposition for that hard fought match, even though at times their frustrations had boiled over, and headed over to the trophy table. There was only one thing left on everyone’s minds. It was trophy time. We applauded Peacock as they collected their runners up medals. Then, lights, camera, action. Stokey went up to collect their medals. Last of all was our skipper, Paul Bulgin, who was firstly presented with the League Cup which he held aloft proudly. Then, we were presented with the shied for winning the Premier Division. What a proud moment in Stokey’s history. Our first top flight league triumph, coupled with a cup final success. Stokey had won the league and cup double for the first time in our history. What a momentous day.
On behalf of the management and players, a very big thank you to all who made the day special. We could not have done this without our support throughout the season, culminating in this very special day. Thank God for making this day special and for continuing to bless all the players, managers and supporters.
Philippians 4:13 (NIV): I can do all things through Him who gives me strength