Clapton 4   0 Stanstead | 30th April 2016   |                                                                                  
Gordon Brasted Memorial Trophy 

Clapton players came into this match resolute in avenging the memory of last year’s defeat. Social media was doing the rounds as to who was going to win and the fact that Clapton had many players cup tied. Many regarded Stansted as Clapton’s bogey team at the beginning of the season, we were winning 3-0 at their place and then lost it 4-3. Last week at the Old Spotted Dog,  once again we were winning two nil and ended up drawing 2-2,  so both teams had a lot to prove.  On top of that, Clapton had not added to its silverware since 1989.

The Clapton management team prepared for the final on Thursday, going through the tactics and set pieces and were quietly confident at improving on last year, although with certain people missing, the management of Mike and Andre had faith in all the players in the squad.

There was lots of interest in this match and the supporters arranged for four coaches to go to the final. The day was forecast for sunshine and rain!

We all travelled down the A13 to Burnham Rambler’s Ground; with no traffic jam on the way, the Omen was good. As you entered the ground, the Ultras were going through their repertory of songs. The atmosphere was jovial, happy and the Tyskie was flowing!

The players warmed up and were very quiet and calm.  The team of Peppa in goal, Kristain right back, Euan centre half right side, Peter Moore centre half left side, Jerry Jairette as left back, with Nathan Cook, Jeff, Freddy Morris, Paul Barry and Roddy Lemba in the midfield and Warren Mfula were pumped up. The Tons formed a huddle just before the game start, then tapped one another on the back and went to their positions. No one could mistake the “Clapton Red and white song” coming from the Ultras (even some officials were singing it).

Immediately from the kick off the tackles started to go in hard and no quarters were given. Ten minutes into the game Clapton was finding it hard to get there silky football flowing, Mike and Andre were working overtime shouting instructions onto the pitch. Their passion was tempered by the fourth official, who penalised them for stepping outside of the technical area. Still no joy in improving the pattern of play. After a chat with Andre, Mike changed the system, and moved the players around. This was twenty minutes into the game, with both teams exchanging pass and move; and trying to control the midfield, with the Stansted number four putting in some borderline tackles and was very fortunate not to have been carded within the first fifteen minutes – up until then Clapton wwas encouraging pressure.

Just after the changes Mike shouted to Roddy “You’ve  been on their 20 f…ing minutes and you haven’t left the dressing room yet you’ve got 5 minutes to buck up” In the 28 minute, a move down the left side between Jerry, Nathan and Paul Berry delivered the ball into the box. Roddy climbed higher than everyone else and put the ball top left hand corner of the net. 1-0 to Clapton.

The supporters sent up the red and white colours of Clapton into the air. Flags were waving. This goal spurred on the team and the supporters’ songs went up a few octave. Every ball was greeted with a ooh or aaar. The Tons were camping in Stansted’s half. Warren Mfula was becoming a handful for the Stansted defence as his pace and close ball control caused them problems – on one of those occasions Clapton was awarded a free kick just outside the box but the attempt was cleared by Stansted.

Stansted put up some high searching balls but Euan and Peter dealt with them. Kristian at right back was having the best game of the season. His tackling was uncompromising,  and he started to over lap and delivered the ball into the box, resulting in the Stansted left sided midfielder spending more time defending than attacking.

As the Clapton midfield of Freddy, Nathan, Jeff and Paul Berry became more dominant and exchanged between Nathan, jeff, Roddie, resulted with a through pass to Warren Mfula who gained half a yard on the Stansted defender, the defender took Warren down and Clapton was awarded a penalty in the 36th minute. Warren placed the ball on the spot but Euan came up and had a chat in his ear and took the penalty driving it down the middle of the goal. 2-0 Clapton. Half time was beckoning and instead of seeing the half out and going in 2-0 the Tons continued to pressure Stansted. On one of these exchanges, the Clapton midfield combined well and gave Nathan the ball who dropped his shoulder leaving one Stansted player for dead, beat another and shooting from twenty five yards saw his shot narrowly missing the left hand post.  Shortly after that the referee blew for the first half. The players left the pitch but such was the excitement we even had a Terrier dog pushing the ball with his nose around the pitch.

Clapton players were the first back out after the half time break and everyone was prepared for Stansted to come out fighting, and we were not wrong! Within minute of the start,  a Clapton player needed treatment after a hefty tackle but the team was still composed. Stansted had three corners within the first ten minutes, although Peppa dealt with them, the Tons’ keeper needed treatment.

Mike wanted to make a change and decided to substitute Jeff for Gomes with three up front and stretching the game Stansted players were under a lot of physical pressure as Clapton started to keep the ball. From a Stansted goal kick Kristian challenging for the ball had a bloody nose, he was taken off the pitch. This left  Clapton with ten men for a period of time as the physio patched him up. The game continue with Clapton pressing high in Stansted’s half. Kristian was allowed back on and Stansted was finding it hard to get a shot at the Clapton goal.  Then a pass to Warren Mfula, who beat one player and fired the ball left footed around the keeper into the bottom corner of the net. 3-0 to Clapton in the 80th minute.

The celebrations were fantastic! Warren took off his shirt and ran to the bench. Everyone was jumping around as if we had won the game, but that goal did release a lot of pent up fear in people’s minds, questioning whether Stansted could come back again as they had previously, as they never gave up at any time in the match.

After scoring that goal and running back to the bench with his new number nine shirt ripped, Warren never made it to the centre circle! His hamstring went and was immediately substituted for Miles.

Shortly after Mike wanted to make another change to the formation and substituted Roddy for Bradley who was given a warm reception by the fans and players as this was his first game since collapsing at a previous match. With his pace and guile increasing the pressure on Stansted even more, Clapton was having the ball the majority of the time.

In the 85th minute, an exchange between Nathan and Brandon saw Brandon thread a ball to Miles. The defender was ahead of him to the ball but facing his goal. Instead of passing the ball back to the keeper he ran with it towards him and his goal. Miles cleverly slide around him putting the ball underneath the goalkeeper and making it Clapton 4 Stansted 0.

The party had started but the match had not finished. Clapton adopted a narrow two banks of fours when defending and stretched the game with the ball. The fourth official put up five minutes extra time due to Kristian’s injury.  Instructions were still going out to players. The prospect of winning our first trophy since 1989 was too precious to relax. Everyone was at the pumps. Freddy, Paul, Nathan, and the back four were in the thick of it.

Finally the ref blew his whistle. The cheers rang out from the ground to all over Essex. The Clapton fans then ran onto the pitch to congratulate the Tons players and the champagne started to flow. The red and white blotted out the sky for a moment, clearly showed which team had won this encounter.

And then sportingly the Clapton supporter’s sang “Well played Stansted, Well played Stansted, Well played Stansted” applauding them and showed the true spirit of this famous club. After all the photos and selfies it was time for the presentation, which the host refused to present until all supporters had left the field of play. This was done quietly without any fuss and then the League Chairman, Robert Errington congratulated both teams, and the supporters.  Medals were then present to Stansted and then Clapton.

As Jeff went to collect the cup the Clapton hymns of songs accompanied the players and the cup. Finally the ghost of 26 years had been laid to rest. The lifelong spectators had a pleasant glow of achievement on them after witnessing a final. The players and management became of age and can now be more confident on what they can achieve. A euphoria of what Clapton can achieve broke out but the main thing was we won and we can start preparing for the 2016-17 champagne on a very positive note and winning a trophy is now back in our blood.