The Baptists won the National Christian Cup courtesy of a 3-1 victory over Liverpool side Bridge Chapel in the final at The Valley, home of Charlton Athletic FC, yesterday (Saturday) evening.
Goals from Dean Boyd and Adam Higgins-Gooch put Battle two-up inside a dozen minutes, and although Bridge Chapel pulled one back later in the first half, Yordan Yordanov sealed the Baptists’ victory with their third goal in the closing quarter.
It was a terrific win for Battle - against a good Bridge Chapel side - and one which was built on the hard work, sound organisation and collective spirit which have characterised their success this season.
Bridge Chapel possessed some accomplished players and had the lion’s share of possession, but Battle restricted them to precious few chances and conjured up some moments of quality at the other end to score the all-important goals.
Battle had scored early in each of their four matches en route to the final and their quickfire double on this occasion was undoubtedly key to them winning the game.
Bridge Chapel seemed to make the brighter start until Battle opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a terrific goal from the ever-impressive Boyd, who struck a glorious shot from the left-hand side of the box right into the far corner of the net.
Battle were in dreamland when they doubled their advantage four minutes later. Boyd’s cross from the right made its way to Yordanov beyond the far post and he got past a defender before unselfishly squaring for Higgins-Gooch to tap home.
If any of the sizeable contingent of Battle supporters thought at this point the team was in for an easy ride in the South London sunshine, however, they were mistaken.
Bridge Chapel - who had scored 20 goals and conceded three in reaching the final (Battle had scored 18 and conceded three) - gradually got on top and halved their deficit with a well-worked goal in the 25th minute. A good move down the Bridge Chapel left ended with the ball being pulled back for Liam Kiziltan to slot home from 10 yards.
There was no further goalmouth incident during a keenly-contested first half, but the way the game was going, you sensed Battle would have a lot of defending to do during the second period.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half were fairly scrappy, with a player on either side going into the referee’s notebook. Battle’s supporters did have one nervy moment when the ball was poked past goalkeeper Jake Rudwick, but captain Ollie Jeffs was on hand to clear the danger.
Bridge Chapel again began to dictate the play during the closing half-hour, yet Rudwick wasn’t required to make a genuine save as Battle kept their defensive shape and soaked up the pressure in resolute fashion.
And with players of the quality of Boyd and Yordanov in the side, Battle always carry a goal threat - and they restored their two-goal cushion in the 76th minute.
Seconds after a Bridge Chapel substitution, Yordanov ran at the Bridge Chapel defence and worked space to bury a low left-footed shot into the net, sparking jubilant scenes among Battle’s players, management and supporters alike.
Bridge Chapel substitute Neil Makinson couldn’t direct a volley on target from a near impossible angle and the Merseysiders’ hopes faded further when another substitute, Reuben Valentine, was sent-off in the 88th minute for denying Yordanov a clear run on goal.
Bridge Chapel had one last chance in a lengthy period of added time when Makinson couldn’t connect with an attempted shot from inside the six yard box.
Battle brought on Mike Amar, Harry Loates and Zac Fawcett for the closing minutes, meaning that 15 of their 16-man squad made it onto the pitch (the National Christian Cup operates a roll-on, roll-off substitutes system).
The final whistle was followed by joyous celebrations between the Battle players and management, who after the trophy presentations joined their supporters to toast the success.
Higgins-Gooch received the man of the match trophy and Boyd also collected an additional prize as the competition’s joint highest goalscorer with six strikes in five games.
Battle: Rudwick, Rafati, Dowling, Jeffs, Saunders, Carrick, Mayhew, Vinall, Higgins-Gooch, Boyd, Yordanov. Used subs: Garlick, Loates, Fawcett, Amar. Unused sub: Vickers.
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