Northwood Veterans 5  Leiston Veterans 0

Sunday 21st October 2012


NORTHWOOD VETERANS Isthmian Veterans' Cup
Northwood Park
Team line-up


1 Darren Bonfield
2 Dave Nolan
3 Gavin Hart
4 Mark Burgess (Capt)
5 Gary Williams
6 Danny Butler
7 Christian Metcalfe
8 Richard McDonagh
9 Richard Gell
10 Lawrence Yaku  
11 James Burgess  
12 Steve Hale  
14 Danny Yeoman  
15 Chris Gell  
16 Andy Cook  
17 Dave Richards  

There was no holding back the years on Sunday afternoon as the Reds simply booked their place in the semi-finals of this season’s Isthmian Veterans Cup competition. With former skipper Paul Watkins taking charge of the Woods for this year’s tournament, he put together a vastly experienced side that had made over 2,500 Northwood appearances between them and scored over 400 goals. Leiston, whose first team was promoted to the Ryman Premier at the end of last season, hail from Suffolk, twenty miles north-east of Ipswich, close to the coast and the nuclear power stations of Sizewell.

The Woods started the match well, with James Burgess winning a tackle and sending over a pinpoint cross which looked like being headed in by Richard McDonagh until a good defensive header denied him. From the resulting corner, taken by McDonagh, Gary Williams rose high but headed just inches wide and the visitors had survived the early onslaught. Leiston rallied and had a bit of success in getting forward but the Northwood defence, superbly marshalled by Danny Butler, Williams and Mark Burgess, looked particularly solid.

After 15 minutes Lawrence Yaku had his first involvement as he shot just wide before Gavin Hart then cut in from the left and let fly with a shot which goalkeeper Karl Sore did well to keep out. Christian Metcalfe was next to go close as he got on the end of a Yaku cross with a firm header that was well saved but a goal looked likely at this stage and it came after 29 minutes. McDonagh was the provider, collecting a good ball down the right, and knocking in the perfect ball for Yaku to fire home.

Just two minutes later, the Woods’ record goalscorer notched his second with a fine solo effort, blasting a shot past Sore that gave Northwood a two-goal cushion – but there was more to come. After 34 minutes Yaku turned supplier with a typical, jinking run into the box before laying the ball off to Dave Richards who volleyed home a third goal. Richards, a former Northwood reserve team player, had also scored twice in last season’s competition, so was maintaining a good record. It was Richards who went closest to adding to the score before half-time, seeing one shot well saved while putting a header over the bar following another good cross by McDonagh. Both were substituted at half-time, with Steve Hale and Richard Gell the replacements.

Five minutes into the second half, Dave Nolan picked out James Burgess with a cross but his header flashed wide of the target. Hale drove wide from the rebound of a free-kick as Danny Yeoman was introduced for Metcalfe and then Yaku played Hart into the box and his good strike was pushed wide by the keeper. Hale was next to go close with a shot following a Hart cut-back and then Chris Gell replaced Nolan for the final half-hour. The Woods were still dominating for long spells, with James Burgess full of running, and he had one effort blocked by Sore while another good ball almost put Hale in on goal.

After 70 minutes, the fourth goal finally arrived, ending some dogged resistance by the visitors. Chris Gell drove forward down the right and played in a great cross but the attempt of Matthew Murphy to cut it out with a header only resulted in the ball flying past his own goalkeeper. Leiston’s one chance of a consolation came their way after 74 minutes as goalkeeper Darren Bonfield mistimed a clearance straight to Gavin Jennings. He ran straight for goal but Bonfield was out quickly and his dive just managed to push the ball away with Jennings failing to get a shot at goal with his tumble fooling nobody.

Stung perhaps by this brief threat, the Woods stepped up the pressure again with Hale winning a ball out wide on the left, arrowing his run towards goal and letting fly with a powerful strike that Sore managed to keep out and the loose ball was cleared. On 78 minutes James Burgess won another tackle and threaded a ball through to the ever-willing Hale who sidestepped his marker and crashed home a fifth goal. It was his ninth goal in the Vets Cup for the 42-year-old over the years.

McDonagh, back on the field for Yaku in the final fifteen minutes, went closest to adding a sixth goal after 84 minutes when he latched onto a Mark Burgess ball and a deft chip had the keeper back-peddling to tip the ball onto the bar and a defender cleared for a corner.

The Woods now move into the last four of the eight-team tournament and await the draw for the semi-finals with fingers crossed for another home fixture.

Report by ALAN EVANS