By Mark Venables
Canvey Island 2 Hednesford Town 3
A STUNNING HALF-VOLLEY FOUR minutes from time by Chris Brindley, the centre back, secured the FA Trophy for Hednesford Town yesterday, and gained a measure of solace for the Staffordshire side after a wretched season that has seen them finish third from bottom in the Dr Martens League premier division and fail to gain a place in the newly formed second tier of the Nationwide Conference.
Brindley, 34, who divides his time between managing a pub in Hednesford and acting as assistant manager to Barry Powell at Keys Park, had suffered a torrid afternoon at the hands of the prolific Lee Boylan, but ultimately his was the afternoon’s most telling contribution. “I felt a bit guilty because I have had a bit of a ’mare,” Brindley said. “But I have never hit anything like that in my life.”
Powell, the manager, conceded that this victory felt better than when he won the League Cup with Wolverhampton Wanderers in 1974. “I don’t know who was more tired at the end, me or the players,” he said. “We lost control just after half-time, and it put us on the back foot. But that magical free kick got us out of the mire and what about the old warhorse, what a fitting tribute.”
It was the second season running that the final of the FA Trophy has been contested between sides from outside the Conference, non-league’s top flight. Last year, Burscough prevented newly promoted Tamworth from completing a double; this time it was Hednesford who prevented Canvey Island, fresh from their promotion to the Conference, from ending the season with two pieces of silverware adorning the Park Lane trophy cabinet.
“It will take some gloss off our season for a while, but we have had a quality season,” Jeff King, the Canvey manager, said. Belying their status as underdogs, the first half belonged firmly to Hednesford, and the Staffordshire club could count themselves unfortunate to only have a single-goal advantage to show for 45 minutes of enterprising football. Anthony Maguire was on hand when Danny Potter failed to hold a close-range effort from Mark Danks, calmly slotting the ball past the prostrate goalkeeper.
All the good work of the opening period was undone, however, when Boylan, showing the predatory instincts that have seen him find the net 56 times this season, breached the Hednesford rearguard twice in the space of two minutes at the start of the second half. Moments after the restart he was left unmarked six yards from goal to head a cross by Chris Duffy past Ryan Young, and a minute later, he was on hand to benefit when Young spilt the ball, his precise chip helped into the net by Brindley’s despairing lunge.
Canvey’s advantage was to last for only six minutes, a clinical 20-yard free kick from Les Hines, curling just out of reach of Potter and nestling in the corner of the net, served to settle the nerves. Then, with extra time looming, up stepped Brindley to ensure that an unsatisfactory season ended on a bright note for Hednesford.
Canvey Island (3-5-2): D Potter 5 — G Cowan 5, B Chenery 6, S Ward 5 — J Kennedy 5, T Gooden 5 (sub: K Dobinson, 89min), N Midgley 5 (sub: O Berquez, 74), J Minton 6, C Duffy 5 — N Gregory 4 (sub: K McDougald, 80), L Boylan 7. Substitutes not used: D Theobald, A Harrison. Booked: Chenery
Hednesford Town (4-4-2): R Young 5 — D Simkin 5, C Brindley 6, S Ryder 6 (sub: L Barrow, 59 6), L Hines 7 — A Maguire 8, J King 7, C Palmer 7, D Charie 5 (sub: S Evans, 55 5) — S Anthrobus 5, M Danks 6 (sub: S Piearce, 77). Substitutes not used: P Evans, D McGhee. Booked: Anthrobus, Danks