Saturday 12th May 2012
England Deaf Challenge Cup Final at Keynsham Town FC, Bristol
Fulham Deaf FC v Derby Deaf FC

In the build up to the England Deaf Challenge Cup Final, FDFC, along with their Chairman, Nick Beese, travelled to Bristol the night before in order to maximise the teams preparations for what would be their final game of the season. The sprit of the team was extremely good and everyone had the opportunity to relax before hitting their pillowcases. Everyone that is, except for Ayad, the Gaffer, who spent the night tossing and turning over his team selection for the game.

After a brief discussion with his right hand man Martin Willis, the Gaffer finally made his decision just before the squad travelled the short distance to Keynsham Town FCs ground. Upon arrival, the FDFC players basked in the warm afternoon sun and gazed upon a brand new 5G artificial surface, made up of a combination of grass and synthetic turn with a billion tiny rubber balls on it, knowing this was the place where they would attempt to secure the England Deaf Challenge Cup for the second time since the clubs victory over St Johns back in 2008.

The players were relaxed watching the EDF Plate Final match between Bristol and Everton Reserves, where FDFCs very own Mark Gill enjoyed a big 5-0 victory as part of a new-look Bristol team on the day. Well done!

The FDFC players were eventually able to take their places in the changing room, anxious to know who had been select to start from a pool of 16 available players. The Gaffer eventually put everyone out of their misery by announcing the team, with Sam Kemp in goal behind a 3-5-2 formation, consisting of three defenders in Ewan McGreevy, Jack Harding and Daniel Rumney. Andrew Kenward was chosen to sit in front of the three back, with both captain Jonathan Evans and vice captain Benjamin Lampert in front of him in centre midfield. Philip Swift and Joseph Wylde were selected to operate down the left and right wing respectively. Oliver Manoochehri and Alex Bovino were named as the strikers to complete the first eleven. Naturally, Alex Lee, Sam Arnold, Richard Hounslow and the Gaffer were disappointed for not making the first eleven but accepted that they would have a part to play in the game to come. Everyone was stunned to learn that Jacob Willis would be named as the fifth substitute to inspire the team. Daniel Hogan and Oliver Monksfield, both of whom were injured, were present to assist Head Coach Chris McGinn with the teams warm-up.

It was evident to the Gaffer from looking at the warm-up that the players were well-prepared for the big game against a Derby side who had yet to record a single victory over FDFC since the Whites were first established. Nonetheless, all of the players were under no illusions about the need to stay focused and determined in order to continue that winning streak.

At 3pm, the referee blew the whistle to start the match. Both sides attempted to settle down and maintain possession of the ball, although the Whites started the better of the two sides. Both Manoochehri and Bovino had chances within the first 15 minutes to put their name on the score sheet but failed to trouble Scott Coalwood in the Derby goal. Both Sean Priestley and John Atkinson were impressive for Derby in central midfield but they found their progress frequently blocked by the central midfield trio of Evans, Lampert and Kenward, with Derbys lone striker Richard Jeffers (an old FDFC boy!) frequently isolated up front. Evans missed two chances to give the Whites the lead before Manoochehri broke the deadlock, running on to Lamperts quality through-ball and slotting past the stranded Coalwood to open the scoring for the Whites.

Derby, despite the setback, refused to buckle and found an equaliser ten minutes later, when Harding failed to clear his lines on the right hand side, eventually resulting in an unmarked Holdsworth gleefully nodding in a cross into the back of the net.

Both sides continued to battle in the midfield third, although the Whites showed signs of getting back on top with Bovino, Evans, Manoochehri, Wylde and Swift all having chances to score at some point in the first half. Wylde was particularly unlucky to see his angled header hit the outside of the post, after great work from Swift on the other flank. Evans missed a clear-cut chance to give the Whites the lead when he followed up Manoochehri’s shot, which cannoned off Coalwood and fell into his path. Hitting it first time, Evans could only hit the ball wide of the far post. Coalwood was by far the busiest keeper until the last 25 minutes of the first half and did well to keep the whites at bay until Manoochehri popped up with his second goal of the match when Evans turned past his opposite number and fired in a shot, which was deflected into the path of Bovino, who unselfishly played in Manoochehri to slot the ball in from close range.

The half time whistle soon blew, with the Whites holding a slender 2-1 lead. In the dressing room, Coach McGinn urged both strikers to stay centrally and pressurise the Derby sweeper at all times. The Gaffer, surprisingly remaining calm, urged the lads to be prepared for a fight back from Derby and to maintain their position during the second half.

Once the second half started, the FDFC management were surprised to see that Derby had not changed their formation to a more attack-minded 4-4-2. This gave FDFC the impetus and the midfield began to take control of proceedings, resulting in a number of switchovers and a good use of the wingers. Harding in the FDFC defence was back on top form again, consistently denying Jeffers any opportunity to get Derby back in the game, with some well-timed interceptions. As Fulham continued to take control of the second half, Derby started to falter, with a number of tactical fouls being awarded to the Whites.

As a result of the continued pressure, the Whites started to create more and more chances without any success, until Manoochehri atoned for missing a sitter five minutes earlier by latching onto a through-ball from Kenward and lifting his finish over the onrushing Coalwood. Eventually, Evans managed to get his name on the scoresheet with a simple header after excellent work from Bovino to put the game beyond all doubt at 4-1.

Kenward in particular was having a great game, providing cover to the back three as well as keeping the play simple and finding his man with every pass he made. Lampert thrived in a free role, spraying the ball into dangerous positions and looking like a threat every time he had the ball. The back three of Harding, Rumney and McGreevy did an excellent job in keeping Derby’s danger man Jeffers quiet, to the point that he was eventually replaced late in the second half, having worked himself into the ground with no reward. The Gaffer ordered a double substitution in the 80th minute, with Alex Lee replacing the excellent Bovino and Sam Arnold taking over from the outstanding Rumney. A few minutes before time, FDFC added the icing onto the cake with a sweeping move from midfield that culminated in Manoochehri slotting past Coalwood for his fourth goal of the match. The final moment of note came just before the end when Richard Hounslow came on to give Kenward a well-earned rest.

As soon as the whistle was blown for a full time, the FDFC dugout, players and supporters all celebrated the result, but made sure to congratulate the Derby management and players for playing their part in what was an extremely competitive final. The Guest of Honour, John McHale announced that the Man of the Match trophy would by awarded to the impressive Manoochehri, who happily stepped up to collect it.

Consequently, FDFC claimed the EDF trophy for the second time, with both captain Evans and Jacob Willis lifting the trophy aloft, much to the delight of the players. The champagne (well, sparkling wine) was popped and poured over all of the players, much to the chagrin of Evans, who complained of the waste of perfectly good wine! The celebrations went on for a while, with a number of photographs taken.

The Whites can use this success as a springboard for the new season and build on this to enjoy a more fruitful league campaign next year!

Final score:  Fulham Deaf FC 5 Р1 Derby Deaf (HT 2 Р1)

FDFC Line-up (3-1-4-2) :- Kemp, McGreevy, Harding, Rumney (Arnold 80), Kenward (Hounslow 85), Swift, Lampert (Vice Capt), Evans (Capt), Manoochehri, Bovino, Wylde

Subs not used: Sarraf and Willis

More photos can be found here on the FDFC Facebook page (no log in needed)