Ninth career final for Ward - Steve, not John!

COLCHESTER United take on Canvey Island in the Essex Senior Cup Final at Thurrock FC this evening (kick-off 7.45pm).

The Gulls are preparing to compete in their first final for a decade, since a run of three competition victories in four years that last yielded success in 2001-02 with a 6-1 triumph over Dagenham & Redbridge.

In the Canvey team that day was defender Steve Ward, who hopes to line-up in an incredible ninth career final against the U’s.

What makes the achievement more significant is the fact those finals span a period of 23 years - four separate decades - a feat that is widely-accepted as a competition record.

Steve Ward, who has won the magnificent trophy on six occasions with Grays Athletic, Canvey and Chelmsford City, recalls the 1989 campaign - which culminated in a 3-2 defeat for Grays against the Clarets - when he lined up alongside current Essex County FA Chief Executive, Phil Sammons.

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Steve Ward said: “I’d been playing in the Reserves in front of about four people, then walking out in that game it seemed like there were 60,000! We won 1-0 that night against Leytonstone-Ilford.

“I remember Phil scored for us in the final but didn’t celebrate much - possibly because his shorts were too high up in those days!

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“I found a copy of it on a Betamax video! After that game I got to love the Senior Cup, even though we made it to the final and lost that year.”

Steve Ward remains fond of the competition to this day: “I’m pleased the lads at Canvey can experience such a great final as realistically this is the one cup that most clubs at our level can aim for.

“I’m especially pleased for Rob King, an ex-Col U player, as he loves them and still wears his kit from his time there whenever he can!!”

Gulls boss Glen Alzapiedi enthused: “It’s going to be an important day for the club.

“The players and myself have been looking forward to it and it’s a big achievement for us.

“Realistically, the Senior Cup is a competition that a club with the size and status of Canvey Island has a genuine chance to progress in.

“You can have good runs in the FA Cup and Trophy, but you have the potential to win the Essex Senior Cup if you’re fortunate with the draw.”

Meanwhile, the U’s ruined Concord Rangers’ aspirations of setting up an all-Canvey final against their rivals with a comprehensive 4-0 win at Thames Road in the semi-finals.

U’s Development Coach Richard Hall believes that performance was indicative of the manner in which his squad have approached the competition.

United have also beaten 2011 winners Billericay Town, 2010 finalists AFC Hornchurch, and Harlow Town in getting to the Ship Lane spectacle, as they seek to repeat their success of two years ago against the Urchins.

“We’ve enjoyed the whole experience of the competition this season,” explained Hall.

“We’ve played against teams that want to test themselves against a professional outfit, and we take every team as they come.

“The players have been brilliant. If I’ve asked Karl Duguid or Kem Izzet to play, they’ve showed what good professionals they are.

“My job is to put players on the fringes of the first team, and the only way I can do that is through giving them games where they can show the gaffer [John Ward], that they are worthy of a place in his squad on a Saturday.”

It should be a largely young U’s squad on display tonight, complemented by a few experienced first team squad players, including John-Joe O’Toole, who is on the comeback trail after long-term injury

Admission for tonight’s game, at Thurrock FC, is �10 for adults, �5 for concessions and �2 for Under 16s accompanied by an adult.

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