Bridlington Town 9
Hall Road Rangers Reserves 2
East Riding Senior Cup final (at KC Stadium)
FIGHTING back from two goals behind has been a hallmark of Bridlington Town’s season, but they saved their most sensational comeback until last.
Overwhelming favourites to win the East Riding Senior Cup final, the Seasiders made a dismal start and were deservedly two down after half an hour.
Maybe they had underestimated opponents from two leagues below them, but the underdogs rose to the occasion while Town looked to be suffering from stage fright.
However, fitness and class told in the end as Mitch Cook’s men ran in an avalanche of goals in the second half.
Josh Greening helped himself to five goals in a game for the second time this season, all scored in a 20-minute spell in the final stages.
After the disappointment of finishing second in the Northern Counties East League, and learning that champions Retford look likely to make a U-turn and accept the single promotion place, Bridlington really did deserve some silverware for their efforts this season.
They also had the heartbreak of their last trip to the KC Stadium to put right, when North Ferriby United beat them with a goal in the last minute of extra time two years ago.
This was a different scenario, as Town were expected to win confortably, although Hall Road Rangers Reserves were not the minnows you might have been led to believe, with the programme notes suggesting eight of the starting 11 were first team regulars in the NCEL.
Hall Road exerted the early pressure with Adam Crane seeing a speculative shot sail off target and then earning the game’s first corner.
Town’s first effort came when captain Tom Fleming capitalised on a poor touch by Lee Parker but he was off balance as he shot wide.
Bridlington hardly looked like the team from a higher league, and were struggling to impose themselves on the game.
It was no surprise when Hall Road took the lead on eight minutes. Mark Wilberforce made a hash of a short goal kick and Mike Gawthorpe smacked a volley straight back past the keeper from the edge of the area.
From the restart Greening tumbled in the area but the penalty appeals were fairly half-hearted and then a defensive clearance ricocheted off Ash Allanson’s shins and bounced wide.
Rangers should have added a second when Craig Palmer missed a header and Danny Moore was clean through, but his lob over Wilberforce was too heavy and cleared the bar.
More chances came to the underdogs, as Gawthorpe and Moore linked up nicely and Bridlington were looking shaky from back to front.
Steve Gawthorpe was pulling the strings in midfield and Town were looking all washed out in the awful conditions.
Billy Logan and James Bennett both tried shots from outside the area and the closest they came was when Mike Burley tipped a Greening shot over the bar smartly, after a good build up by Craig Hogg and Logan.
But below-par Town fell further behind on 29 minutes. Steve Gawthorpe was afforded too much room and he cut inside two defenders and fired a left-footed shot low into the bottom corner.
This was not in the script, but no-one could suggest the scoreline was not a fair reflection.
Town forced a number of corners but rarely looked threatening until they got a lucky break six minutes before the break.
Defender Dane Mortimer slipped on the wet grass and Greening squared for Ash Allanson to confidently side-foot past Burley.
Getting a goal back before the interval was crucial and they could have gone in on level terms but a linesman’s flag ruled out Nathan Cook’s neat chip.
No doubt the words in the dressing room at half time were far from complimentary, and it was inevitable that the second half would be one-way traffic.
But no-one realised just how emphatically things would turn around.
Cook thumped a long range shot which went wide, but he was tripped as he had pulled the trigger and Brid got a second chance from the same position.
Logan’s free kick was spilled by Burley but Greening couldn’t force the rebound over the line.
Town’s tails were up, but the tide turned on 51 minutes. Moore controlled a long ball and played winger Steve Chapman in, but Wilberforce made a tremendous block to keep the deficit to one goal.
A third would have revitalised Hall Road, the save sapped their hopes and energy, and four minutes later Town had equalised.
And what a goal it was. Burley punched Allanson’s corner clear but Billy Logan strode forward and thundered a first time shot home from the edge of the box. It simply flew.
Immediately, Chris Jenkinson replaced a thoroughly disgruntled James Bennett who had simply let the game pass him by.
Town were looking more settled and by the hour mark it was clear Hall Road’s legs had gone. they were simply holding on.
And then Bridlington simply became ruthless, as Josh Greening scored four goals in eight minutes.
A howler from Burley got him started. The keeper came out of his area but missed his kick and Greening walked the ball to the line and tapped in from all of three inches.
His second arrived on 69 minutes. Hogg made a smart turn on halfway before releasing Greening and he danced round Burley and fired past the defender on the line.
Then, Fleming split the tiring defence and Greening again took the ball past the keeper and squeezed a shot in from a narrow angle.
Five became six almost immediately, as Greening showed no mercy to the shell-shocked Rangers.
Craig Palmer got his reward for an excellent season on 78 minutes. Allanson declined the opportunity to shoot from a free kick. Instead he surprised everybody by curling in a cross which Fleming headed back across goal and Palmer swept in unmarked from three yards.
The pace of the game was down to a canter, although Brid were not too bothered about how embarrassing the scoreline might become.
Palmer almost added another when he thundered a shot off the underside of the cross bar. Did it cross the line?
With no goalline technology nobody knows, but it didn’t really matter. It would have mattered less if Greening had slotted home the rebound rather than blazing it over the bar.
The striker’s search for his fifth goal continued as he clipped a tricky chance over the bar after good work down the left by Cook.
The Seasiders did at least give Hall Road defenders the welcome sight of leading scorer Hogg leaving the field in the last 10 minutes. The problem was his replacement Robbie Hawkes set up the eighth goal.
A precise pass from the right touchline allowed Greening to outpace Parker and side step Burley to tap in his fifth of the night.
Burley will have had nightmares about Greening bearing down on him after his ruthless finishing. And the damage was not yet done.
In injury time, skipper Tom Fleming scored the final goal. He had been outstanding in midfield, dragging Bridlington in to some form almost single-handedly from 2-0 down.
A decent goal it was too, as he jinked past a line of defenders on the 18-yard-line and then rolled a shot perfectly across Burley which trickled into the far corner.
29 goals in four ties in the East Riding Senior Cup this season must be some sort of record.
By the end, the nightmare start was a distant memory and Fleming and Allanson lifted the trophy to the delight of the Town fans who had headed to the KC on a thoroughly awful, wet evening
Glass-half-empty fans might complain they should have won the league. Glass-half-full types will rightly point out there are many, many teams who would have swapped their seasons for Town’s.