Out joining the biggest Alliance crowd of the season so far watching the Division 2 Cup Final between 2A Champions the New Castle FC and 2B Champions CLS Wyre FC at Blackpool Wren Rovers FC.

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The 2005/06 Season has produced four very interesting Divisional Cup Finals but this was the one I was most looking forward to seeing.  The upward progression of the New Castle FC under manager Paul Stevens has been remarkable.  Last season they were promoted from Division 3A where they finished runners up to Little Fat Jacks FC.  Their season was greatly helped by having the Alliance top scorer, Craig Byrom, in their ranks.

With one league game left to play they’ve already been crowned as 2A Champions and will finish at least ten points clear of rivals Little Fat Jacks.  After the defeat of Progress Property Management FC by Blackpool Rangers in Division 3B this morning the Castle are the only Alliance side that still remain unbeaten in the league.  Today sees their thirtieth fixture of the season with their only defeat coming against Premier team the Clarence in the fourth round of the Gledhill Cup.  To reach this morning’s final they’d had to knock out Brannigans Reserves (2B), Sands (2A), Great Eccleston (2A) and Fleetwood Kings (2B).  Two seasons ago playing as Real Cahoots they won the Division 3 Cup final against Christ the King at Blackpool Mechanics.

Today’s opponents CLS Wyre FC have had a great campaign.  Last season they were unlucky not to be promoted from Division 2B when finishing fifth behind the likes of Kings, Red Rose Catering and Wyre Villa.  This season they went on to win the league finishing four points ahead of rivals Christ the King winning twenty and drawing one of their twenty-four league fixtures.  The three defeats all came early season against the Shovels, Partner Marketing and Fleetwood Kings but since October 2nd John Egan’s side have powered their way to the league title and today’s Cup final with an unbeaten run of nineteen games in all competitions.  To reach today’s final they’d had to beat the Bispham Hotel (2A), The Shovels (2B), The Highlands 2A, and Partner Marketing (2B).

If there was any psychological advantage for either team then it lay with the New Castle who beat CLS Wyre 6-3 in Round 1 of the Gledhill Cup back on August 14th.The weather was overcast and threatening rain but calm and the Wren Rovers pitch, although a little hard and bumpy was in good condition.

Despite the early kick off there was a big crowd down for this one.  Today’s officials were Barry Cropp in the middle ably assisted by Dale Harvey and Colin Brownsell.  CLS Wyre in the blue kicked off defending the changing block end.


The New Castle FC

Smiling officials (from left) Dale Harvey, Barry Cropp and Colin Brownsell.

Castle’s Parker acrobatically tips a CLS effort over the bar

CLS keeper Mike Hale ex of Burnley and now of Fleetwood Town Reserves.

After only two minutes the New Castle FC took the lead.  A short pass into box found Curtis Smith who’s shot was initially well saved one handed by Hale.  The ball rebounded back to Smith who made no mistake with the follow up which he smashed left footed high into the net.  1-0.

On five minutes a CLS free kick troubled Castle keeper Ben Parker as he touched it around the post for a corner.  On nine minutes a late flag for offside ended CLS goal celebrations.

“Yes, you !”

New Castle’s Polish import Marek Kosztka

New Castle FC keeper Ben Parker.

The longer the half went on the CLS Wyre began to dominate possession and chances.  They looked especially dangerous from set pieces and on nineteen minutes one such corner resulted in a powerful headed effort bouncing back off the bar as seen in the picture below.

CLS go close again from a corner but this time a defender chesting it clear from the goal line denied them.

On thirty minutes there was good break by Castle but the striker, clean through on goal hit his shot just wide of the post.  Three minutes later and the equaliser finally came for CLS.  A good break down the left resulted in Craig Whitewood shooting across goal.  Keeper Parker did well to get down and save it but he couldn’t keep hold of it.  Adam Hutley for CLS was the first to react as he fired home from short range at the far post.  1-1.

Parker parries but Hutley follows up and scores.

Three minutes later and CLS almost took the lead.  From another corner only a desperate combination of the post and a defender kept the ball out.  Shortly before the break Paul Bailey broke clear for CLS but his lobbed effort over the keeper also went over the bar.

Paul Bailey with a great effort on goal

On this occasion he was narrowly wide

Craig Byrom.

The New Castle FC were relieved to hear the half time whistle.  After a below par first half performance they were lucky to go into the break with the scores level.                                    

                              Half time score :  The New Castle FC 1 – 1 CLS Wyre FC

The second half started much as the same had ended with CLS creating the better chances.  The best of the early efforts fell to Paul Bailey who looks up for some divine intervention as his shot from the edge of the area skimmed off the outside of the post.

CLS Wyre manager John Egan.

A lovely challenge on Bailey

At last the New Castle began to win more in midfield and for the first time in the game they had the majority of the possession in the opposition half.  CLS were stifled going forward and their defenders were being given far more problems by the likes of Smith and Byrom.  The fast paced game of the first half was replaced by a midfield struggle with few chances of any note for either side.

The New Castle FC bench alongside referee’s assistant Mr Brownsell.

The rain begins to come down heavier.

On seventy eight minutes the stalemate was finally broken.  Hard working Curt Smith received the ball out wide left.  He took on his man, beat him, moved inside the box and lashed it past CLS keeper Hale as seen in the picture below.  2-1.

Curt Smith (Out of picture left) puts the New Castle 2-1 up.

Smith celebrates with Byrom and Kosztka

Craig Byrom receives an excellently delivered yellow card from Mr Cropp.

Craig Byrom up against Chris Matthews, the latter winning the personal contest betwen the two today.

An injured Castle player

Spotted in the stands, Ronnie Byrom, dad of Craig, himself a former sunday league cup winner

With time running out The Castle defence was well fortified with Braebaum marshalling the troops but in the eighty eighth minute they conceded a free kick in a dangerous position on the edge of the area.  Paul Bailey stepped up and rifled in a tremendous effort that flew past Parker and into the far corner.  In the picture below you can see Parker at full stretch in mid air but he couldn’t keep it out.  Wild celebratory scenes ensued from CLS and their vocal supporters.  2 – 2.

Another shot of Bailey’s superb free kick

There was little added time before referee Cropp’s whistle took the match into extra time.                          

                             Score after ninety minutes :  The New Castle FC 2 – 2 CLS Wyre FC.

Spurred on by their late equaliser CLS were now back in the ascendency.  Midway through the first period of extra time they took the lead for the first time in the match.  A long free kick was poorly defended by Castle and when the ball fell kindly to an unmarked Craig Whitewood he made no mistake in sticking it past Parker from eight yards out. 2 – 3

A despondent Ben Parker is beaten for the third.

“You’re joking Ref !”

For the remainder of the game the New Castle pushed forward in search of an equaliser but CLS were defensively solid all over the pitch and comfortably kept their opponents at bay until the final whistle. 

Mr Cropp blows up for full time.

                            The CLS bench celebrate.

Final score :  The New Castle FC 2 – 3 CLS Wyre FC

Well a close game between these two in-form sides was predicted and so it proved.  As Mr Collins said in his post match presentaion speech this was a geat advert for local Sunday football.  The game was well refereed by Mr Cropp and played in great spirit by two committed sides.

The New Castle, despite the early goal, were sluggish in the first half but much improved in the second period.  CLS Wyre played great in the first period and were unlucky not to be up at the break.The late equaliser was deserved for all the effort put in and gave them the impetus to go on and win the game in extra time.  Throughout the course of the 120 minutes I thought CLS Wyre were the better side and fully deserved the victory which makes for a league and Cup double.

Both centre halves for the New Castle played very well but Curt Smith up front was their star man on the day.  He never stopped running and scored two good goals.  Paul Bailey led the line brilliantly for CLS Wyre and along with Craig Whitewood and Adam Hutley and each were rewarded with a goal.  Congratulations to CLS Wyre FC.

New Castle FC manager Paul Stevens collects his medal.

Good sports the New Castle collect their losers medals.

The CLS skipper is presented with the Cup.

The champagne celebrations begin.

Division 2 Cup winners 2005/06 – CLS Wyre FC.

Sportspy 2005/06