Guisborough Town 1, Middlesbrough U-21s 3 (North Riding Senior Cup Final)
Gallant and gutsy Guisborough Town’s hopes of crowning what has been an excellent season overall by winning the North Riding Senior Cup were dashed by an impressive young Middlesbrough Under-21 Reserves side at the KGV on Monday.
The plucky Priorymen never stopped running and trying all night but the very well-drilled Boro side’s superior fitness and all-round professional team display was just too much on the night for Guisborough.
Without making excuses for Guisborough the final against Boro was their NINTH game in 19 days – almost one match every other day over a hectic two and a half week period – and such a punishing end-of-season schedule was bound to take its toll.
In front of a healthy crowd of 440, Boro almost scored in the opening seconds when Guisborough ‘keeper Nick Liversedge had to be alert to keep out a long-range shot straight from the kick-off from Tinkler inside his own half.
Boro continued to call the shots – literally – with efforts from Arnel Jakupovic and Alex Pattison going close to giving the away team the lead.
Guisborough’s first worthy effort on goal came on the half-hour when a low Ste Snaith shot that was heading for the corner of the net was palmed away by the diving Luke Coddington for a corner, which came to nothing.
Boro finally made their pressure on the Guisborough goal tell on 38 minutes when Pattison cut into the penalty area and hooked the ball over the advancing Liversedge and into the net for 1-0 to Boro.
Then almost on half-time Guisborough’s hopes were shattered when the dangerous Jakupovic smashed the ball home into the roof of the net to double Boro’s lead going into the interval.
In the second half, Guisborough weathered further Boro pressure well and started to mount their own attacks with a Curtis Round effort on 53 minutes producing a smart save from Coddington.
Then on 61 minutes Guisborough at last got the breakthrough they desperately wanted when Pete Bulmer – having one of his best games – lashed home from 12 yards to inspire hopes of a possible famous comeback among the KGV faithful.
Sadly just eight minutes later Jakupovic dashed Guisborough’s hopes with another stunning strike to restore Boro’s two-goal cushion and clinch the North Riding Senior Cup for the 55th time in Middlesbrough’s history – an incredible record in the competition.
Judging by the performance of the young Boro side last night, the future for newly-promoted Middlesbrough looks as bright as their U-21 side’s yellow shirts, many of whom will surely be knocking on the first team door in the not too distant future.
‘NOTHING BUT PRAISE FOR MY PLAYERS’ – PROUD DOWLO
As for Guisborough, they still have two league games to play against Morpeth on Wednesday, 11 May and then the return derby against Marske at the KGV on Friday, 13 May and victory in either one of those remaining matches will guarantee the Priorymen third place in the league, which would be a tremendous achievement.
After the final, Guisborough Manager Steve Dowling spoke glowingly of his great pride in his players. He commented: “Tonight we came up against a very good Boro side who were on top for most of the first half and scored a well-worked goal.
“Unfortunately, we then conceded a second goal just a minute before half-time that made it difficult for us going into the second half.
“But we managed to regroup at half time and enjoyed a good spell of play for 20 mins after the break and we got back into the game with a very well worked goal finished off by Pete Bulmer.
“After our goal though Boro came back into the game and scored with an excellent finish from the edge of the box to restore their two-goal lead and give them a platform to go on and win the match and the trophy, so our congratulations to them for that.
“To be fair to my players they stuck at it and battled right up until the end and I cannot have anything but praise for my players who have played nine games in 19 days but kept trying right to the final whistle.
“I went for Peter Bulmer as man of the match but Paul Roddam also enjoyed an excellent game at least we now have a two-day break until our next league game!” added a proud Dowlo.
The consensus around the KGV after the match was that of the three Boro teams Guisborough have played against in the last three successive NRSC Finals against their illustrious opponents that this Boro side was definitely the strongest one so far.
Meanwhile, Guisborough round off their gruelling league season this week when they travel to Morpeth on Wednesday, 11 May for a game in which victory would confirm the Priorymen in third place in Division One and then on Friday, 13 May Town entertain derby rivals Marske at the KGV, KO 7.45pm) hoping to pull off a memorable double over the ‘old enemy’.
Photo: North Riding Senior Cup Winners Middlesbrough U-21 celebrate their win. Pic by Yvonne Barker.