Greenalls Padgate St. Oswalds 3 Fife Rangers 1
GREENALLS became the first team to win back-to-back Guardian Cup finals in 12 years with a convincing win against Fife, writes Aaron Flanagan.
An early bath for Fife centre-back Chris Lester helped the Greens on their way, as the difference in quality between the Cheshire League outfit and District League side showed.
Strikes from Craig Hoyland, Mark Hughes and Ben McWilliams helped Greenalls become the first side since Sidac in 2002 to retain the trophy.
The deadlock was broken by Greenalls within the first five minutes of the game. Hoyland’s free-kick found the bottom-right corner of the net to give the Cheshire League outfit the perfect start.
Robbie Hanley was next to go close, this time turning an effort wide of the far post.
Neil Sutch can count himself unlucky for not doubling the lead of Greenalls on the half-hour mark. As Fife keeper Ryan Doodson flapped at an effort, Sutch was left with the goal at his mercy, but he could only turn it wide.
Greenalls continued to push for a second and Robbie Hanley found himself one-on-one with Doodson.
Lester brought him down from behind, but although the referee deemed the foul to be outside the box, Lester was given his marching orders.
Hoyland almost recreated his earlier strike from the resulting free-kick, but this time his effort crashed off the post.
Fife’s best chance of the half came when Danny Wilcock found space in the penalty area, but could only fire high-and-wide.
Greenalls made the dream start to the second half, as team captain Hughes doubled the advantage as GPSO looked set to cruise to the title again.
However, Fife striker Wilcock had different ideas, as he reacted to the goal positively. Wilcock, coincidentally, was a Guardian Cup winner last year himself with Greenalls – coming off the bench in the final – but opted for a move back to his boyhood club Fife for this season.
Firstly, his long range effort was superbly tipped over the bar by Greenalls keeper Craig Clare.
He then got the reward for his efforts when he excellently turned onto his left-foot in the area, firing low into the near corner to make the score 2-1.
From then, Greenalls used their experience to take the momentum out of the game and kept possession valiantly. Hanley missed a chance when it looked easier to score with 10 minutes remaining.
And in stoppage time, the game was sealed. As Fife pushed forward, Greenalls were able to pick up possession and break.
Hanley played in substitute Ben McWilliams, who used his pace to charge one-on-one with Doodson, before smashing past him to put the result beyond doubt.