Athletic boss hails cup hat-trick hero

ALEMITE Athletic manager Peter Lucia hailed hat-trick hero Lewis Eaglestone after the striker's three goals helped his club to prevail in extra time of a tumultuous Essex Saturday Junior Cup Final against Gas Recreation Reserves.

ALEMITE Athletic manager Peter Lucia hailed hat-trick hero Lewis Eaglestone after the striker's three goals helped his club to prevail in extra time of a tumultuous Essex Saturday Junior Cup Final against Gas Recreation Reserves.

“Lewis is something special in front of goal. He scores a lot of goals in all competitions,” Lucia declared. “I didn't feel comfortable until we scored the fifth goal, though. Even at 4-2, if they'd got a third it would've changed things. We looked frightened during the first half, and it was a great battle. Having looked nervous, we had to pick ourselves up, then after they equalised at the end of 90 minutes, we had to do it all over again.”

Essex & Suffolk Border League outfit Gas had made the better start, and Simon Smithen had already smashed a half-volley over the crossbar from close-range by the time Daniel Daly gave them the lead on 25 minutes. A cross from the left was hooked into the six-yard box by Smithen and 48-year-old Daly glanced a header into the bottom corner.

Smithen had an excellent opportunity to double the lead when Jamie Cranfield's reverse pass sent him clear but Ronnie Yates in the Alemite goal advanced from his goal-line to claim, and in first half stoppage time the goalkeeper made another smart save from Robert Thompson's shot on the turn.


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If the opening 45 minutes had been dominated by Gas, then the opposite was true of the second period. Gavin Cockman's low shot was blocked at the near post and Steve Smith was unfortunate when his header bounced off of the top of the crossbar as Athletic piled on the pressure. Their persistence was rewarded mid-way through the half when they grabbed an opportunistic leveller. Jamie Gordon provided the cross to the back post, and Eaglestone stabbed in gleefully.

The forward, who had helped himself to a brace in Alemite's semi-final victory over Kelvedon Hatch Reserves, then doubled his tally six minutes later. Cockman scurried into the penalty area and cut the ball back for Eaglestone to neatly flick past Glen Morrison at the near post.

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The Bishop's Stortford, Stansted & District League side could have made sure of the victory four minutes from the end when Eaglestone prodded across the face of goal from Gordon's pass, but instead Gas summoned up the strength for one last attack and Dale Willoughby's precise 15-yard finish found the back of the net via the inside of the left-hand upright.

Player-Manager Glenn Cowen saw his shot dribble wide for the Colchester club and Paul Munn's low effort for Athletic forced Morrison into a fingertip save, but it was Eaglestone who eventually restored Alemite's lead. The front man struck in the twelfth minute of extra time, beating the offside trap and dribbling around the goalkeeper to slot into an empty net.

A lengthy period of stoppage time meant there was still time for another goal before the interval, this time Cockman cutting in from his right-wing position before gently chipping the ball past Morrison and inside the far post. Unfortunately, shortly after the break, Gas' Jamie Duffett was shown a red card for a second cautionable offence and, later in the final quarter-of-an-hour, James Thomas and Robert Garraty of Alemite also received their marching orders, but not before Thomas' left-wing free-kick had been headed past his own 'keeper by Daly for an own goal to make it 5-2.

For boss Lucia, the occasion was extra special as he emulated his own achievement in leading Athletic to success in the Junior Cup in 2005: “It's a good feeling. It has been brilliant to come back and win it, and we want to do it all over again next year! The boys deserve it as they have got better as the competition has gone on. It's a young squad, but it is a good squad, and hopefully we can go on in the League and League Cup now.”

The teams

Alemite Athletic: Ronnie Yates, Paul Munn, Daniel Coombes, Steve Smith, Mark Kiff, Simon Hewett (Shane Bartram, 69), Jamie Gordon, Lewis Eaglestone, Richard Stapleton (Robert Garraty, 58), Gavin Cockman, James Thomas. Unused Substitutes: Robert Munn, Lewis Davies, Bill Mitchell.

Gas Recreation Reserves: Glen Morrison, Gareth Evans (Adam Bethell, 90), Keiron Betts (Glenn Cowen, 78), Jamie Cranfield (Jason Mort, 69), Jamie Duffett, Daniel Daly, Lee Braddon, Dale Willoughby, Robert Thompson, Simon Smithen, Shaun Baker. Unused Substitutes: Ian Todd, Ricky Cuthbertson.

Referee: Andrew Snell (Clacton-on-Sea).

Attendance: 124.

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