In a terrific Steve Gee Merit Cup final at Stocksbridge Park Steels’ Look Local Stadium, Division One Loxley led twice and pushed CBC Premier Handsworth Turf all the way.
But two goals by Carl Eaton eventually turned thegame Turf’s way, leaving their skipper Andy Stevens to celebrate his 17th season with the club by lifting the first silverware of the season.
Loxley started brightly and they created the first chance for Lee Crampton, but his shot was well saved by Turf keeper Liam Richardson. Turf responded with a good run by Ryan Foster, but Richardson was soon called on again to make a terrific save when Anthony Marshall cut in from the left and shot.
Turf captain Stevens then had to head over his own bar to keep Loxley out and although a good run by Turf’s Danny Leesley created a chance for Ben Shackshaft, his shot was saved by Loxley keeper Lee Crabtree.
Loxley were still on top though and Richardson had to tip a cross away to safety and a Jon Rhodes cross saw Anthony Marshall head wide before Lee Crampton had a shot deflected wide for a corner.
Crampton then ran at the Turf defence before feeding Anthony Marshall and his shot crashed against the underside of the bar.
Turf hit back and a Stevens cross was headed narrowly over the bar by Ben Shackshaft.
With Carl Bowler winning everything at the back, Turf were on top, but they were rocked when keeper Richardson had to come off due to a groin injury. Sam Atkin took over in goal, but his first touch was to pick the ball out of the net after a Marshall cross was met at the back post by Geoff Mayfield and his header back across goal was expertly finished by Piers Bond to put Loxley ahead.
After the restart a Stevens shot was saved. Stevens took the resulting corner and Carl Bowler stooped to head the equaliser. Perry Jackson should then have put Turf ahead when clean through, but his shot was easily saved by Crabtree and Turf suffered a further blow when Stevens had to give way to injury.
Loxley quickly took advantage when Anthony Marshall beat three defenders before feeding Steve Mayfield and his shot squirmed under Atkin to put Loxley back in front. Their lead didn’t last long though when a Jackson run opened up the Loxley defence and Tyrone Wilson smashed the ball home to make it 2-2.
Jackson then rounded the Loxley keeper, but he could only shoot wide. But Turf did get their noses in front when a Mark Jones cross caused confusion in the Loxley defence and Eaton smashed the loose ball into the top corner.
Turf put the result beyond doubt when, after another Jackson run put the Loxley defence under pressure, the ball was only partly cleared to Eaton 25 yards out and he hit the ball like an arrow into the bottom corner to confirm Turf’s first Merit Cup final victory.
Handsworth Turf: Liam Richardson, Mark Jones, Andy Stevens, Ryan Foster, Carl Bowler, Danny Leesley, Tyrone Wilson, Matt Lambert, Ben Shackshaft, Carl Eaton, Perry Jackson Subs: Sam Atkin, Ryan Hardy, Ryan Taff.
Loxley: Lee Crabtree, Lewis Vessey, Alex Armstrong, Ralph Clarkson, Geoff Mayfield, Callum MacRury, Steven Mayfield, Anthony Marshall, Jon Rhodes, Lee Crampton Subs: Piers Bond, John Denton, Mick Smith, Neil Coyle, Karl Taylor.
Referee: Pete Henger. Assistant referees: John Burrows and Paul Cooper