Reffley Royals 1, UEA 2
UEA hitman Chuka Obi's superb brace settled tonight's Norfolk Junior Cup final against Reffley Royals at Carrow Road.
The rangy striker pounced in each half to seal a league and cup double for Gary Butcher's men. Reffley's Jack Webber pulled a late goal back for the North West Norfolk League Division One champions, but the students held on to emulate the class of 2004 who lifted the prestigious trophy.
Butcher was delighted to sign off a stellar campaign with a flourish after winning the Anglian Combination Division Four title and reaching the quarter-finals of the National University Cup.
'The Junior Cup just tops everything off,' he said. 'We also won the university section of our conference in the league and so can we go one better next year? I don't know. We'll try and have a big push for the National University Cup next year, but five of the lads who played in this game won't be available as they are leaving.
'I've been involved with the UEA for 11 years in total, although I had two years out, and we've had three losing semi-finals and three finals – two of which we have won and one defeat on penalties. The nature of the beast is that we should do well in this competition, but sometimes if you get a game that isn't in term time it can be difficult.'
Obi's individual brilliance proved the difference with an impudent lob opening the scoring before racing through to calmly lift over Tom Armitt for the 79th minute match-winner.
'Chuka does that week in, week out – when he feels like it – it is just about getting him in the right mood,' said Butcher. 'The great thing for us is that when the original fixture was meant to be played he wasn't fit, so that was a blessing in disguise in a way. If he wanted to and he could shake himself up a bit he could play higher. He is a student and he is doing his degree and probably football is a side issue.'
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Butcher felt his side let Reffley back into the contest after a bright start.
I think 60% of our play was of a fitting standard for a Junior Cup final. The other 40%, we were a bit too nervous,' he said. 'I just felt after we had scored and we got to about 30 minutes in, the boys seemed to hit a wall. Maybe with all the excitement we got a bit tired and a bit sloppy in our play. Teams don't reach finals without being decent and the opposition put us under a bit of pressure. They created one or two chances and our keeper had to make an unbelievable save just at the end of the first half and we were lucky to go in 1-0 up.'
Royals' experienced defender Steve Johnson was across sharply to thwart Luke Blackwell before UEA skipper Mark Roach headed over in a vibrant start from the students.
Obi nudged UEA ahead on 17 minutes with a cute lift over Armitt and two Reds' defenders stationed on the Reffley goal line. Chris Evans raced clear of a static Reffley backline before rounding Armitt but Lewis Dennis diverted his goalbound finish.
Aaron Proctor tested UEA keeper Adam Burnett with a dipping 20 yard free kick prior to the interval with Reffley beginning to enjoy greater territorial control.
Royals' semi-final hero Timmy Childs was withdrawn just before half-time after being a major injury doubt pre-match following his five goal haul which booked the Royals' a Carrow Road date.
Armitt flung up an arm to divert Matthew Wedlake's piledriver onto his crossbar in the final stages of the half. Matty Anderson then forced Burnett to parry away at the opposite end before Burnett then foiled Matty Anderson with a wonderful point blank reaction save deep in first half stoppage time.
Obi's glancing header dropped wide of Reffley's unguarded goal on the restart after the goalscorer pounced on indecision in the Royals' backline. Burnett was pressed into action again just past the hour mark to beat away Steven Parkes' left footer.
Armitt pushed another Wedlake hit onto his bar in a repeat of their first half duel after the UEA midfielder had burst into the box. Johnson struck a sturdy five man UEA wall with time running out for the Reds. Obi settled the tie when he latched onto Callum Hutcheon's defence-splitting pass to cheekily lift over Armitt from 12 yards out.
Webber's late glancing header set up a frentic finale after the referee took advice from his assistant who adjudged the ball had crossed the line.
• Reffley: Armitt, Mason (Maslin 24), Barr, Johnson, Gallon, Wilson, Day, Proctor, Childs (Webber 39), M Anderson (T Anderson 78), Parkes. Subs (not used): Black, Tait.
• Bookings: Maslin, Day, M Anderson, Wilson
• Goal: Webber (89)
• UEA: Burnett, Kelly, Dennis, Stead, Roach, Lewis, Blackwell (Hutcheon 57), Wedlake, Heap, Evans, Obi. Subs (not used): Beeson, Blackaby, Seymour, Scott.
• Booking: Blackwell
• Goals: Obi (17, 79)
• Referee: Peter Venables
• Attendance: 569