2013/14: Toolstation NCEL League Cup Final – Eccleshill United v Knaresborough Town

Last weekend saw the 2013/14 league programme in the Premier and First Division of the Toolstation Northern Counties East League (NCEL) completed. However, there was one last game before the curtain came down on the NCEL season, and that was the League Cup Final at Bradford City AFC.

The two finalists were Eccleshill United and Knaresborough Town, both from the NCEL First Division. Eccleshill’s route to the Final was as follows:

First Round v Cleethorpes Town (H) Won 2-1
Second Round v Albion Sports (A) Won 3-1
Third Round v Tadcaster Albion (H) Won 2-1
Fourth Round v Nostell Miners Welfare (A) Won 1-0
Semi-Final v Heanor Town (A) Won 4-3


Knaresborough Town reached the Final through the following games:

First Round v Rossington Main (A) Won 6-0
Second Round v Hemsworth Miners Welfare (A) Won 2-1
Third Round v Garforth Town (A) Won 2-0
Fourth Round v Bridlington Town (A) Won 1-0
Semi-Final v Long Eaton United (A) Won 1-0


In the league fixtures between the two teams, Knaresborough took four of the six points. The first meeting was in October at Eccleshill. After a goalless first-half, the game burst to life in the second period, with Colin Heath opening the scoring on fifty minutes for Borough. However, the lead lasted just two minutes as Marcus Edwards levelled for the home team. But it was the visitors who took the points with a second goal for Heath and one for Steve Bromley to seal a 3-1 win. In the return game this February at Knaresborough, it was honours even as the game finished 0-0. However, Eccleshill finished higher of the two teams in the NCEL First Division, ending the campaign in fourth, with Knaresborough in sixth.

Today was the second Cup Final of the season for Eccleshill, after they triumphed 1-0 against Harrogate Town in the West Riding County Cup (also at Bradford City) and so were hoping to secure a Cup-double. For Knaresborough, it was the opportunity to secure their first silverware since coming into the NCEL in the 2012/13 campaign.

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Prior to kick-off there was an immaculately observed minutes silence for the Leeds teacher, Ann Maguire, who was killed at Corpus Christie College last week. It was a chance to reflect on the cruelty that life can sometimes inflict, and that when people talk of ‘tragedy’ or ‘disater’ in terms of the outcome of a football match, it should be remembered that it is ultimately only a game.

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Cup Finals can be very tense games often settled by a single goal. Thankfully this was far from it and was a tremendous advert for the NCEL and non-league football in general.

From the outset it was a fast paced and open game, with Knaresborough shading the opening few minutes. Borough made this count on ten minutes, when Eccleshill United fullback Ish Mills was beaten by Blaine Hobson and from the subsequent cross, Colin Heath clinically finished to put his team 1-0 ahead. Eccleshill responded immediately and were only denied an equaliser by good saves by Weston Murau from Connor Shefte and Doug Stevenson. However, their pressure brought its reward on twenty five minutes. From a corner, there was a melee in the box which saw the ball end up in the net and Charlie Flaherty credited with the goal. Borough keeper Murau indicated to the referee that he thought he had been impeded, but his pleas were ignored by referee Jason Knowles and the game was level at 1-1. The Eagles now had their tails up and were soon ahead. From a free-kick, the ball was delivered to fullback Tyler Tarango at the far-post, who out jumped the cover to head the ball back across the goal, where Marcus Edwards headed home at the near-post just two yards out. Knaresborough though held their nerve and didn’t panic and got a foothold back in the game, as Eustance and Heath had chances, but on each occasion their efforts were dragged wide, without troubling Ryan Smith in the Eccleshill goal. The Eagles too continued to look for more goals, with Marcus Edwards a constant threat. However, there were no further score and it remained 2-1 to Eccleshill at the break.

Borough were quickest out the blocks in the second-half and were level at 2-2 on forty eight minutes. From a cross, Colin Heath stooped to head goal-wards and Smith was only able to push the effort against the post before the ball nestled into the Eccleshill net. Now Knaresborough had the initiative, but as the game moved towards the hour there was a ten minute spell when the game became scrappy and niggly, which required referee Knowles to brandish a number of yellow cards to take the heat out of the situation. On sixty five minutes Borough made their first substitution with fullback and assistant manager Paul Stanfield being replaced by Dave Thomas. With twenty minutes remaining the game settled again and as the second-half progressed, genuine chances were at a premium. Eccleshill made a change on seventy four minutes with midfielder Reid Harbach replacing Aaron Sanchez as The Eagles went in search of a winner. And they nearly got it, when in the closing minutes they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. Marcus Edwards curled it towards the top corner, but somehow Murau climbed to claw away the effort. With the game entering time added on and extra-time looming, Borough brought on ex-Brighton and Leeds United player Seb Carole for George Eustance.

With both teams now tiring, the extra thirty minutes unsurprisingly lost some of the bite and intensity of the first ninety minutes. Carole looked threatening as he ran at The Eagles defence, but was unable to create a genuine opportunity for his side. For Eccleshill, their one major chance was created by the ever willing Marcus Edwards. His run down the by-line, through a fatigued Knaresborough defence was only halted by a brave save at his feet by the outstanding Borough keeper Weston Murau. At the whistle and after 120 minutes, players from both sides sportingly shook hands and congratulated the match officials on what had been a draining, but enjoyable Cup Final. They knew though now it was down to the lottery that is penalties.

In front of an empty Kop, Borough took the first penalty and Seb Carole put them 1-0 ahead. Up first for Eccleshill was the dangerous Marcus Edwards, but his penalty was brilliantly saved by Murau as he dived to his right. Murau didn’t watch as his teammate Dave Thomas stepped up to take the next penalty, but the keeper must have heard the ball smack off the post and away as Eccleshill celebrated the miss. The Eagles tied the penalties at 1-1 as Ryan Jones scored from the spot. Jim Bradley took the score 2-1 to Borough and the pressure swung back again to Eccleshill. Charlie Flaherty had the job of levelling the scores, but his penalty was high and wide and The Eagles were now struggling. Substitute Danny Wright scored for Borough to make it 3-1, which meant that Connor Shefte had to net to keep Eccleshill in with a chance. Shefte slotted home to reduce the deficit to 3-2, but the players and fans of The Eagles knew that if Borough converted their next penalty then it was game-over. Byron Littlefair was handed the responsibility of the spot-kick and he drove it home to clinch the NCEL League Cup 4-2 for Knaresborough. With the game won, Man of the match Weston Murau was swamped by the players and rightly so, as the keeper had been outstanding.

There was to be no Cup-double for Eccleshill, but they had played their part in a stirring occasion and their efforts and those of winners Knaresborough were acknowledged by the appreciative crowd. 2013/14 has proved to be a good season for both sides. What will 2014/15 bring?


Eccleshill United: Ryan Smith, Ish Mills, Tyler Tarango, Jermaine Springer (captain), Ryan Jones, Tyson Newell, Aaron Sanchez (Reid Harbach 74), Doug Stevenson, Marcus Edwards, Connor Shefte, Charlie Flaherty. Subs unused: Brendan Roslund, Daniel Mann, Zack Le Casse.

Knaresborough Town: Weston Murau, Paul Stansfield (Dave Thomas 65), Nick Radcliffe, Matt Duerden (captain), Will Lenehan, Jim Bradley, George Eustance (Seb Carole 90), Dominic Wilson, Colin Heath (Danny Wright 80), Blaine Hobson, Byron Littlefair. Subs unused: Tom Osborne, Liam Gray.

Attendance: 390