NOW: Pensions Men’s Cup Final: Cannock 2-2 Brooklands MU (5-4 after penalty strokes.)

Cannock’s David Beckett held his nerve to fire home the winning penalty in the shootout to give Cannock the cup for the first time since 2007 after a dramatic final against Brooklands MU.The two sides played out a 2-2 draw over the 70 minutes with goals from Beckett and Ben Edge cancelled out by strikes from Peter Cornell and David Flanagan but it was Cannock who took the honours when Aidan Khares put his effort over the bar, allowing Beckett the chance to seal the win, 5-4 on penalties. 

Cannock took the lead in the second minute with a splendid counterattacking goal. A swift move down the left was cut back from the baseline and Beckett made no mistake firing his shot into the net from near the penalty spot. The lead lasted just a minute. David Flanagan took a quick sideline hit on the left touchline and found the space to hit a lovely reverse stick cross in where Cornell slid in to apply the finish. The game was surprisingly open for a cup final with both sides seemingly happy to throw men forwards in an entertaining first half and there was no let up after the opening goals as Brooklands forced two penalty corners in quick succession. The first was slipped left to Peter Flanagan but his effort was charged down and then the same player got his shot away but Paddy Smith made an excellent save diving to his right.

With 15 minutes on the clock, Cannock made it 2-1. Beckett showed terrific skills down the left to break into the D with a mazy run before teeing up Ben Edge who fired home for a fine goal.

The rest of the half was attack and counterattack as the teams traded blows like two prize-fighters. With ten minutes left in the half,  Brooklands had a gilt-edged opportunity to level the scores. Captain Flanagan was well kept out from a penalty corner by Smith but with the rebound loose in front of goal Cannock were adjudged to have fouled and conceded a penalty stroke. Flanagan took it himself but despite sending the goalkeeper the wrong way he saw the ball come back off the post. With three minutes till half time it was all square again. Khares fed David Flanagan inside the D on the right and from a tight angle he lifted the ball over Smith and into the net.

The second half took a little while to get going with both sides losing some discipline as the pressure picked up with the clock ticking down. Chris Scott in the Brooklands goal did well to see off a deflected penalty corner and then the No1 was out sharply to smother from Nick Bandurak with Andrew Appleton blazing the follow up over the bar.

Flanagan had a penalty corner scrambled clear and then Stefan Ray-Hills forced a good save from Smith after pulling an aerial down and hitting an instant shot in from the right of the d. Scott was then called upon at the other end, dashing from his line and clearing well with his stick outside the D as Chris Darnley bore down on goal. Despite the two goalkeepers being kept busy neither side could find a winner and it was straight to a penalty shootout

Ollie Clements and Peter Jackson both scored the first ones for Brooklands and Cannock respectively. Peter Flanagan and Hardeep Jawanda both made no mistake leaving it locked at 2-2 in the shootout after two each. Up stepped Khares next for Brooklands but he lifted his effort high over the bar allowing Bandurak to give Cannock the lead. Phil Dutoy scored for the Manchester side but Appleton re-established the lead. David Flanagan made it 4-4 but that left Beckett with the chance to win it for his side, which he duly did, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way and sparking wild celebrations as he raced towards the touchline to be mobbed by his teammates. Once the sea of bodies cleared from on top of their winning goalscorer, Beckett needed treatment for severe cramp before going to collect the trophy!

A delighted Beckett told The Top of the D: “We’ve had a really hard season, just avoiding relegation so to end on such a high is really fantastic. The boys have worked really hard so we’re obviously delighted to have got the rewards for that. We knew we’d been given a second chance after the situation with Oxted so the boys wanted to make sure we made the most of it, it’s great that we were able to take that chance and take home a bit of silverware.”

On the pressure of taking the winning penalty, the England International said: “Obviously for anyone that’s a high pressure situation but I tried hard not to think about it too much. It’s nice for me to able to score the penalty to win us the competition but everyone in the side deserves credit for getting us to that point in the first place.”

Cannock picked up the trophy for the fifth time in their history. For Brooklands, it was a heartbreaking way to lose out, but perhaps gives them confidence that they can live with the premier league sides they will come up against next year after their promotion from the north conference. That is for next year, however. For now, the moment belongs to Cannock. 

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