Out watching the last of the Divisional Cup Finals as Alliance Champions Quilligans FC took on third placed Reform Health Club FC at the ground of Blackpool Wren Rovers for the Melling Shield (More pictures now added)

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After two previous postponements Quilligans FC will hopefully complete their Alliance league programme away at Harris & Co FC on Tuesday night.  They’ll finish the season as Alliance Champions for the first time in three seasons.  Either side of that fixture they have a couple of important Cup finals to contest starting with today’s Premier Division Cup Final against the Reform Health Club FC for the Melling Shield.

Two seasons ago
I watched on as they they lifted this trophy at Blackpool Mechanics FC against Fleetwood Kings FC (Highbury) and like the league title they very much wanted this silverware back in the trophy cabinet.  This morning’s game represented the second leg of their attempt at a famous treble. 

They went into the game after two league defeats against runners up Highbury and Cahoots, two games in which they had unusually failed to find the net.  There are those who think that since winning the league they’ve collectively taken their foot off the pedal but they are wrong as manager Spedding hates to concede a single goal never mind a point.  More importantly, a team with two big Cup finals on the horizon wants to keep a winning run going to keep up momentum and players in a big squad such as theirs are not guaranteed to keep their places for Cup finals.

On Friday night they go out to win the Gledhill Cup for the fifth time in six seasons.  You can expect to see a lot more on that game during the coming week.

Today’s opponents the Reform Health Club FC finished sixth in Division 1 last season but the league committee asked the team to go into the Premier Division as they thought that they had the potential to do well.  There were those who mocked and sneered thinking they were not good enough and would fail dismally.  The league were fully correct in their assumption and the critics were proved wrong as not only did Reform go on to finish third but they’ll end up with at least ten more points than any of the other teams who were promoted with them from Division 1 in 2004/05. Player Managers Dean Whitehouse and Mick Horsfall (Many Happy Returns) have done a great job this season.

After winning the Compere Cup in the summer they took that good form into the start of the season and ended up losing only seven of their twenty-four league games which is only three more than Quilligans at the time of writing.  Back on the 18th of September Reform beat Quilligans 3-2 and in my humble opinion that was the only occasion this season when Quilligans were comfortably beaten by the better side and that includes the Lancashire Sunday Trophy.

After watching that performance I thought that Reform could actually go on and win the league and if there is a downside to their season it’s the fact that they didn’t go on to do even better than they did.  Simply put, and perhaps a trifle contoversially, lack of player availability and commitment to the cause has cost them dear which is frustrating for the neutral as with their best team out every week they would have had a great chance of winning it.

They also went on to reach the semi final of the Gledhill Cup for the second season in succession which is another notable achievement.  Last season they lost to eventual winners Quilligans and this season they lost to Poulton SFC.  Hopefully, Reform will be back next season challenging for all the major honours.

Quilligans won the reverse league fixture 4-1 and despite those two recent league defeats were still favourites to win the game.  The respective club website message boards had been unusually quiet this week strangely missing the usual banter which was maybe a sign of mutual respect for the other team’s capabilities.

To reach the final Quilligans had previously had to beat St Annes Ex Service, Highfield Social (Walkover) and Kingsfield.  Reform’s victories had come against the Golden Eagle and the Clarence.

The overnight rain was much welcomed by the groundsman and although overcast the weather was calm and dry in the run up to kick off.  Today’s officials were Dave Wolfenden in the middle assisted by Dale Harvey and Ross Swift.  At 11am in front of another big crowd Quilligans kicked off in the blue kit kicking towards the changing block.

Quilligans FC

Reform Health Club FC

A team capable of winning any match and all former top local sunday players
From left: Dale Harvey, Dave Wolfenden, Ross Swift

Quilligans kick off.

Wayne Maden.

Referee Dave Wolfenden.

Both sides started confidently playing accurate short passes at a fast pace.  On ten minutes a mistake by Days at the back for Quills allowed the Reform striker to get a good shot away that troubled Forsyth but it was eventually cleared away.

Jordan Spedding.

Dean Whitehouse.

Dougie Shaw

After a very evenly matched opening quarter Quilligans took the lead.  A misjudgement between Mick Horsfall and a Reform colleague led to a Quills corner. It was crossed over by Ioannou and after something of a scramble centre half Wayne Maden stabbed it home.  The Reform players were claiming a foul on keeper Howard but Mr Wolfenden thought he spilled it.  1 – 0.

Spedding with the ‘foul’ on Howard. Seems clear cut enough from here…

Maden stabs home amidst the confusion

Dean Whitehouse questions the wisdom of Mr Wolfenden.

As does Will Watt.

Now Peter Kane’s at it

But despite the Man Utd treatment, Wolfy still shows the card

Quills keeper Andy Forsyth.

‘Couldn’t hold a pair of boobs’ according to his girlfriend

Phil Thompson.

Thumbs up from Chris Days.

Andy Hill

On 38 minutes Dean Whitehouse clearly held back Quills’ striker Lee Broadbent and referee Wolfenden rightly awarded the free kick 25 yards out.

Reform set up the wall.

Broadbent took the free kick himself and it was heading for the top corner before a great leap from keeper Howard saw him deflect it on to the bar.  The ball bounced down on the line and Thompson tapped it in but the goal was disallowed for offside.

Offside mate.

You can’t hold down the keeper by grabbing his shirt Jordan !

Two minutes into first half additional time Broadbent picked up the ball in midfield.  He looked up and played a peach of a pass over the top and into the path of Lee Conway.  Full of composure he took it on a couple of strides, looked up and despite the best efforts of the defender smashed it past Howard into the far corner as seen in the picture below.  2 – 0.

Conway celebrates behind the goal as dejected Reform players look on.

It was a bad time to concede for Reform as seconds later the first half was brought to a close.

                               Half time score :  Quilligans FC 2 – 0 Reform Health Club FC.

Horsfall nurses a shoulder injury.

The Reform Health Club started the second half looking the better team with Horsfall pushed into a more offensive role.  Two back to back corners resulted but from the second a swift counter attack from Quills almost resulted in a goal.  On 53 minutes the Premier Division’s top scorer Scott Waters had his best chance of the match as Forsyth did well to palm it over the bar.  The game needed a goal for Reform.

Marc Beattie.

On the hour Broadbent broke clear from the half way line.  He looked well offside but didn’t stop to argue.  He took the ball on into the box beat a defender and shot just wide.

Phil Ioannou keeps close tabs on Will Watt.

Lee Broadbent’s tired, time for Devereaux.

Stuart Diggle.

For all Reform’s efforts they just couldn’t find a way through and midway through the second period their offensive possession began to dry up and Quills began to dominate.  They were breaking clear from their own half at will and with a three against one chance they should have scored but last ditch defending gave them only a corner that came to nothing.

On eighty minutes another breakaway down the left found Devereaux on-side.  He took it to the byline looked up and played the perfect cross for Mark Beattie to nod it home from three yards.  3 – 0.

Beattie is mobbed after heading home the third.

Two minutes later and it was all over as a contest.  Devereaux was played in over the top.  His first effort was saved by Howard but he followed up the rebound, took it around the keeper and slotted it home.  4 – 0.

Devereaux acclaims the crowd after scoring the fourth.

The final whistle goes and the respective managers shake hands.

A rare losers medal this season for Micky Horsfall.

Robbie Boal lifts the Cup for Quilligans FC

Anyone who saw the Quilligans v Clarence Gledhill semi final would have seen a lot of similarities with this game and not only the final scoreline.  Reform started confidently and were on a par with their opponents.  They were unlucky to go behind but the second just before the break was the killer.  Quilligans were just too strong for them in the closing stages as players tired.  Still, as I said earlier, when the dust settles they’ll look back on a successful season with just a hint of ‘what might have been’.

Quilligans back to winning ways then setting themselves up nicely for Friday night’s Gledhill Cup Final.  The second leg of the famous treble nicely secured.

Interesting to see player selection and formations today as manager Spedding experimented in some areas of the pitch.  Bracewell was unlucky to miss the game following a pulled muscle in the pre-match warm up.  Good performances from Maden, Conway, Broadbent, Ioannou and substitute Devereaux were chiefly responsible for the win in an impressive overall team performance.

Final score :  Quilligans FC 4 – 0 Reform Health Club FC.

Premier Division Cup Winners 2005/06 – Quilligans FC

A celebratory fag in the showers for Boaly after the game – not for the first time we hear…

Sportspy 2005/06