The big day had arrived for Chesterton AFC as they faced an opportunity to reach their first ever final at the first time of asking. Standing in their way was a well drilled and organised Tuffley Rovers side.
With the stakes high, it was important to both teams to gain the early advantage and try to grab the all-important first goal and that went the way of the visitors.
After some good early signs from Chezzie, they found themselves with an early opportunity in the 10th minute. On hand to take the corner was Will Power who played a dangerous driven cross to the back post where it was met perfectly by the head of George Peare to make it 1-0.
After a strong opening twenty minutes for the away side, things looked good for Chesterton and advancing to the final looked to be a walk in the park.
However, Tuffley had other ideas, now adopting a more physical approach to the game as they went in search of the equaliser.
Earning themselves a free kick 20 yards out from the Chezzie goal, the hosts found a way back into the game as the set-piece was expertly dispatched in the 26th minute to bring the sides level, 1-1.
Trying to get back on top, Chesterton looked to implement the passing game that has been so effective this season, however, with Tuffley now inspired by their goal and closing down every ball, it became difficult for the visitors to do so.
Nonetheless, as time passed and legs began to tire, gaps began to develop for Chesterton to exploit.
In the 36th minute, the visitors had worked the ball forward and advanced into the oppositions’ 18-yard box where a penalty was awarded to Chezzie for a foul on Peare.
Up stepped captain Dan Jones to take the spot-kick and, despite the wind creating havoc and causing the ball to move on the penalty spot, Jones placed the ball well to the Tuffley keeper’s right only for it to be met by a superb save.
An opportunity for 2-1 missed, or so the away side thought, as they worked tirelessly to rectify this. Just a few minutes, later they did just that.
It was another corner to be taken by Power and once again another pinpoint delivery. Putting the ball into a similar area to that of the first goal, the ball would be met by D. Jones.
Looking to make up for the penalty miss, he rose highest and headed back across goal to the waiting Peare who finished off the move by heading into the back of the Tuffley net.
Looking to improve on the first half and increase their advantage, Chesterton now had to face a second-half Tuffley side who were resorting to tough tackling and lumping the ball forward in hope of an opening.
Four minutes into the second period and the latter proved effective for the hosts.
With a high, long ball that held up in the wind, the Tuffley striker found himself one on one with Ryan Heaven and left him with no chance as he slotted the ball past the Chezzie ‘keeper to make it 2-2.
Now facing a nervy 40 minutes, Chesterton piled the pressure on and went hunting for a third to avoid the prospect of a dreaded penalty shootout.
The visitors thought they had found the match-winner in the 71st minute when the ball was played forward toward the offside Peare, who cleverly allowed the ball to run on, leaving strike partner Josh Russell beyond the defence.
Russell slid the ball into the back of the net, however, a controversial decision saw the goal ruled out as the linesman flagged for offside due to interference with the play from Peare.
With the score still at 2-2 and time dwindling away, Chezzie upped the attacking pressure and almost turned to a shoot-on-site approach to try and grab the winner.
Unfortunately for the away side, every shot was matched by a top drawer save from the opposition keeper (who was arguably their man of the match), including a fantastic reaction save from a thunderous Will Power half volley that left Chesterton wondering if the goal would come.
Into injury time and it looked almost certain that this tie would be decided by penalties. Chesterton, however, didn’t believe they deserved to be taken to a shootout and had one last throw of dice to grab the winner.
With a free kick in a central position, around 40 yards out, the visitors threw the big men into the box.
As the centre backs made their way forward, Power saw an opportunity to catch the defence unaware with a brilliantly floated ball in behind that was met by that man Peare.
Peare caught the ball on the volley and beat the ‘keeper with a clever lob to win the game for Chesterton and earn himself the title of hat-trick hero and also the man of the match award.
MOTM: George Peare