England Deaf Plate Cup Final at Sixfields Stadium, Northampton Town FC, Northampton – Saturday 11th May 2013

After a week celebrating our landmark 5-0 victory over St Johns in the British Deaf Cup Final in Cardiff, the Fulham Deaf squad had to start putting this out of their minds and concentrate on the next game.

With this in mind, the squad travelled up to Sixfields, the home ground of Northampton Town FC on Saturday morning. It was great to be able to go to a professional football stadium, experience it and play on the actual pitch; the surroundings matched the occasion.

Before the match, the Gaffer Ayad Sarraf, and his assistant Martin Willis expounded the mantra ‘You are only as good as your last game’ to the players, reminding them that this was their last match of the season. Hence they would remember it for the next 3 months until the new season, so it was important they forgot the previous week and put in another performance that demanded 110% from their bodies. The Head Coach, Chris McGinn left the players in no doubt what was expected from each of them in terms of tactics.

The team was announced; it was a testament to the strength in squad depth that Fulham Deaf have, that the Gaffer Ayad was able to make 9 changes from the previous week in order to reward the whole squad for their efforts throughout the season; Kemp and Bovino being the only two players who had started the previous week.

The team started brightly, taking the game to Birmingham Deaf, and not allowing them any time to settle on the ball, Fulham Deaf playing their normal pressing game. They were rewarded for their endeavours when James Paull out on the right found Sam Arnold in space in the middle. Sam was able to push the ball a few steps forward, capitalising on the hole he had found himself in; he then let fly from all of 30 yards the ball screaming in and crashing into the net off the underside of the crossbar for one of the most spectacular, well-taken goals Sixfields had ever seen.

Not long after, James Paull again on the right, received the ball on the half way line and set off on a run, dribbling past 4 opposing players before cutting inside into the penalty area and drilling a low shot past the Birmingham Deaf ‘keeper and into the bottom of the net.

Shortly before half time, a well deserved 3rd goal was Fulham Deaf’s reward for their endeavours. A nice exchange of passes between Karim Fayed and Alex Bovino found Karim in space to have a strike at goal. Unfortunately Karim mishit his shot, however the saying ‘Every cloud has a silver lining’ was in evidence here, the silver lining coming in the shape of Alex Bovino, as the shot found him on hand to tap in a simple goal into an undefended net.

The boys came in at half time 3-0 up. The Gaffer and Chris McGinn gave their half time pep chat underlining the fact that whilst things were going well; they were pleased with the physical efforts, there was a little too much sloppiness and mishit passes going on. Hence they needed to focus more on quality in the second half, whilst maintaining their 110% effort and not letting Birmingham find a way back in the game.

The second half started in pretty much the same way as the first half; Fulham again dominating the middle of the park, thus ensuring their own defence and goalkeeper were not tested much. James Paull again found a way through the Birmingham defence for Fulham’s fourth goal and his second of the match. He exchanged passes with Bovino breaking through and slotting past the approaching goalkeeper.

Philip Swift having come on for Sam Arnold, managed to get onto the act; wrapping the game up with Fulham’s 5th goal, collecting the ball from Ben Lampert on the left corner and drilling in an accurate low ball from 20 yards which threaded through a crowed penalty area and found the net.

The match ended with much celebrating and captain for the day, Daniel Rumney lifting the EDF Plate cup high to much cheering and spraying of champagne.

It was a great team/squad effort from all the players and they can be proud of their efforts. Special mention should be made to: –

-Ross Ward who celebrated his 17th birthday the week before, he started nervously but grew in confidence as the game went on.

-The back three of Thai Rickford, Daniel Rumney and Richard Hounslow, three unsung true professionals who turn up regularly each week knowing they are not guaranteed a game, but do not let that affect their attitude, morale and commitment to the club. They played in the back like they had been there all season and were not troubled at all; which was evidenced by the clean sheet

-James Paull the club top scorer, who put aside his disappointment in not starting the previous week by answering in the only way he knows how, scoring 2 goals and making one another. This led to him being awarded the man of the match award from Jackie Harrison the guest of honour who was representing the Deaf Sports Personality of the Year organisation

-Andrew Kenward and Sam Arnold who both who bossed the midfield admirably, again they have a professional attitude and excellent morale and commitment regardless of whether they are picked or not

-Ben Lampert who used his vast experience and know-how to steady the ship if it looked like wobbling at times, he oozed class, and used his skills to make time on the ball for the team.

-Karim Fayed and Alex Bovino who linked up admirably up front as if they had played together all season

-Not forgetting Sam Kemp our ever dependable goalkeeper who was, yet again, steady between the posts

-Phillip Swift, Mark Sinclair and Jacob Willis who came on during the match and seamlessly fitted in

-Daniel Waller and Jack Harding who did not get an opportunity to came on, but this did not dilute their enthusiastic support of the boys on the pitch throughout the match

-Daniel Hogan and Joe Wylde who were resting and not in the matchday squad, but played their full part in encouraging players, passing on their tactical nous and providing advice.

-And last, but not least, absent players who could not make the day for various reasons, such as Jonathan Evans and Nick Gregory. You played your full part in previous rounds ensuring we were able to get to the final

Finally, a testimony to the fine season Fulham Deaf have had is that 6 players were picked for the Great Britain Deaf match against Royston Town the following week (which GB won 3-2) and also the June match against France in Paris. They are Jonathan Evans, Jack Harding, Ben Lampert, Daniel Waller, Daniel Hogan and Jacob Willis. Well done lads and fly the FDFC flag high!

Final score Fulham Deaf FC 5 – 0 Birmingham Deaf FC (HT 3 – 0)

FDFC Line-up (3-5-2) :- Sam Kemp, Thai Rickford, Daniel Rumney (Capt), Richard Hounslow, Ross Ward, Sam Arnold (Philip Swift 60), Ben Lampert, Andrew Kenward, James Paull, Karim Fayed (Mark Sinclair 46), Alex Bovino (Jacob Willis 75)

Subs not used :- Jack Harding and Daniel Waller
Man of the match :- James Paull