Long Crendon made it to the final of the Berks & Bucks Intermediate Cup after a tense 2-1 win over a very talented Ascot United Development side.
Manager Ryan Davis made three changes to the side that won the previous week against Chalvey, recalling Dino Bonwick and Nathan Brownsword in defence and handing Asher Yearwood a start in midfield. The two sides had only one league defeat between them going back to March last year, so a heavyweight contest was in prospect and something was going to have to give.
From the outset, it was clear that Ascot were going to be very comfortable in possession at the back and the early exchanges set the tone for an interesting tactical battle with Ascot keeping the ball but Crendon looking very threatening in transition, especially when they attempted to release Harry Pettingell down the right. One such break led to Crendon forcing a corner and when the ball was only returned to the taker, Alex Farley, he fired a low cross in that was poked home by Harry Pettingell, his 17th of the season.
The pattern of the play continued in much the same way, with Ascot probing patiently but Crendon largely keeping them at arm’s length with few clear-cut chances at either end. Just after the half hour, though, a forward ball found the advancing Yearwood in the box and he was held back, with the referee pointing to the spot despite Ascot’s protests. Brownsword stepped up and fired the penalty into the roof of the net to double Crendon’s advantage.
Soon after Crendon could easily have had a third. Another Alex Farley corner sparked a spell of pinball in the Ascot box but Crendon couldn’t force the ball home and when it looked like Oli Lethbridge would score at the far post, he appeared to be kicked in the face but the referee turned down the protests.
That looked to be a big turning point as almost immediately Ascot went up the other end and when Bonwick was harshly adjudged to have fouled an opponent, Josh Nice curled in the free kick to halve the deficit. Unperturbed, Crendon responded with their best move of the match but when Eliot Farley was found at the back post, he could only shoot straight at the keeper.
A breathless half was then brought to a close.
The question after the break was whether Crendon would be rattled by conceding but in reality, the game was now played on a knife edge at either end. Ascot spurned a good chance when a mix up between Brownsword and Tom Lethbridge allowed their striker in but he skewed his lob well wide. George Collingwood then saved superbly with his legs after a flowing Ascot move finally found a hole in the Crendon rearguard. However, it was certainly not one-way traffic and the tireless Oli Lethbridge almost forced a third goal through sheer persistence, while Harry Pettingell also fired just wide of the far post after another good move.
Billy Lane and Ben Sykes were introduced from the bench as Crendon could see the winning post looming and despite a late set piece or two, the defence, where Joe Russell had an immaculate game, were in no mood to allow any late chances. Amid excruciating tension, the final whistle sounded to kick off jubilant celebrations, sending Crendon through to their first ever Berks & Bucks final.
Buckingham Athletic Development will be the opponents in the final after they came from two goals down to see off Reading outfit Eldon Celtic.
Final score: Long Crendon 2 (H Pettingell, Brownsword (pen)) Ascot Utd Development 1 (Nice).
Team: Collingwood, Russell, Bonwick, T Lethbridge, A Farley (c), Brownsword, E Farley, H Pettingell (B Sykes), Yearwood, A Pettingell (Lane), O Lethbridge.