Champion Jags collect their 3rd Trophy in a fortnight!!
By Jez Hands
…with victory at the Parklands tournament in Northampton.
After winning the Sussex Cup at the end of the May; then collecting their League Title Trophy and Medals on Friday evening; the Jags added more silverware with a Sunday tournament victory in Northampton.
The boys were drawn in a tough group, which included some quality local Northants sides and strong visiting teams from Bedfordshire and the West Midlands. Against that background, a tremendous performance then to win every one of their 6 group games, the closest being a hard fought 2-1 win.
Topping the group saw them through to the Semi-Final against Dunstable based AFC Warden Eagles. Although Newport have undoubted great ability on the ball and a strong passing game, the opposition were fast running and defended doggedly with the keeper pulling off a number of good saves. At the back, the Jags needed to be on constant alert to combat the opponents dangerous attacking pace. In the end, the match was settled by a single score - and, once in front, the boys played with increasing confidence and were resolute across the park in seeing the game out.
Going into the Final meant switching pitches. This was a material change, as the ground did play very differently. Having spent all day on a pitch with quite long grass, where the ball moved slowly, the Final was played on a surface that had hosted the other Semi, where the grass was cut shorter and the ball moving much more quickly. With no half-time switch, the boys also had to play the whole game facing a marked uphill gradient.
Against a very capable Bugbrooke side, who were clearly determined and technically able, it took a while for the Jags to find their rhythm - and they conceded an early goal, as the ball was touched in from what, in Newport eyes at least, looked like an unfortunate soft free-kick. Finding themselves behind for the first time in the day, the boys showed total commitment though and played their way back into the match. As the minutes ticked by, the Jags seemed to be permanently camped in the opposition half, but with Bugbrooke mounting a fine defence. Whenever a Newport player received the ball in a shooting position, they were very quickly closed down, with shot after shot deflected wide …and when the ball did make it through the first line of defence, the opposition goal-mouth was always packed and, after a scramble, the ball successfully cleared.
Into the final minute, with the official properly playing added time for several stoppages, the boys won another corner. That kick was charged down for an immediate second attempt - and this time the ball dropped right into the danger area - with frantic attempts to clear unsuccessful and Newport finally stabbing the ball home for a deserved, but very hard won equaliser.
Some 30 seconds later, as the final whistle was blown, the buoyant Newport supporters applauded the boys’ efforts.
The Tournament rules specified no extra time, so straight to penalties, the best of three. While the Jags scored their first 2 pens, the opponents had both their opening strikes saved, leaving Newport with an unassailable 2-0 advantage, so arms immediately aloft in celebration.
Another of those occasions where such was the commitment of all the squad, that every single one of the boys played a full part in bringing home yet another piece of silverware. Among the memories...
Dylan for his always immense bruising power and fearsome speed up front. Free-scoring Leo for bagging a heap of unstoppable goals with his lethal left foot strikes. Henry and Alex for their highly charged non-stop disruptive running at opposition defences. Billy always so coolly capable and composed at the back and iron defence Charlie who made the tackle of the day against a seemingly runaway Solihull striker. Roman and Luca switching to whatever position was asked of them and then playing those roles with total commitment. Harry weaving around opposition players with ease and scoring a sublime curling far-post goal from the edge of the box. Sam for an outside-the-box absolute worldy top-corner winning strike in the Semi. Seo and Theo totally unrelenting in midfield, combining great technical skill and limitless energy to support attack and defence in equal measure. Sonny for getting himself into exactly the right place to push home the priceless last minute equaliser …and of course Tom for pulling off two fantastic diving penalty saves to finally secure the Cup.
After some impressive football, a tournament title that looked like it might just slip away - but huge credit for the Jags’ never-say-die attitude which saw them come back to overcome first-class opposition in a fast moving and very competitive final.
As ever, huge thanks to our top-drawer coaches Kierran and Scott - and a salute to the usual army of parents and other supporters, always encouraging and a credit the club as they helped the boys home…