STOCKPORT GEORGIANS 2, SPRINGHEAD 3
It was a match Springhead had to win twice as they defeated Stockport Georgians to lift the Manchester League’s Gilgryst Cup.
Springhead were well on top as a double from Jordan Jones-Waite put the Saddleworth side 2-0 ahead at the break.
Georgians scored soon after the restart and the momentum swung their way when they made it 2-2 with 18 minutes left.
Fittingly it was Jordan Hall who had the final word with an 80th minute winner, his 14th goal in the 10 games as he was the competition’s top scorer.
In the end Springhead’s superior firepower proved pivotal as their formidable front three of Jones-Waite, Hall and Ryan Hanson were too hot for Georgians to handle in the final.
Jones-Waite netted twice, Hall once with former Manchester City academy player Hanson a threat throughout with his rampaging runs down the left.
And it was an absorbing final played in front of 368 fans at Hyde United’s Ewen Fields home.
Manager Lee McAllister praised the never-say-die spirit of his players, saying: “They showed great character as they have done all season.
“I was happy with our performance in the opening half but Georgians scoring soon after the restart which killed my half time team talk.
“When they made it 2-2, I still felt there was a goal in us on the break, and overall we had the better chances in the game.”
And it was a case of history repeating itself as the two teams met in the 2012 final when Springhead also beat Georgians by the same 3-2 scoreline.
After Covid-19 caused the Manchester League to be abandoned, a revised end-of-season and enlarged Gilgryst Cup was organised.
Springhead topped Group C with four wins, two drawn and two losses from their eight matches. After losing 5-1 to Rochdale Sacred Heart in their first game, a final appearance looked remote.
In the semi-final, Springhead won 4-1 at Hinsford.
There was drama before the final which was delayed for a fortnight as Springhead had been due to play Dukinfield Town who were thrown out of the competition for fielding an ineligible player.
Royton-based Hall, 24, had an early chance to put Springhead ahead but dragged his shot wide.
Hall then turned provider with a cross which Paul Stevenson, sliding in at the far post, just failed to convert.
The breakthrough came in the 16th minute when Hanson, also from Royton, broke clear on the left with his cross converted by Jones-Waite with a sweetly struck shot from 10 yards.
Georgians also created openings as Will Wareing’s looping header was well turned over by goalkeeper Allen Mills who also denied Joe Bevan.
Springhead doubled their lead in first half stoppage time when Ryan Fagan set up Jones-Waite whose shot on the turn arrowed into the top corner.
There was a sickening clash of heads in added time which left Springhead’s Nathan Connor and Georgians’ Wareing with blood gushing from cuts and Connor unable to continue.
Georgians halved the deficit in the 49th minute through Bevan, the competition’s second highest scorer, as he netted his 13th goal, whipping in a terrific effort from a tight angle and showing why clubs higher up the football pyramid were watching him at the game.
Springhead were caught again 18 minutes from time when Kyle Wyche made a forward burst and, after not being shut down, took aim and found the bottom corner from the edge of the box.
But the Saddleworth side wrestled back control and won the match with a fabulous goal by Hall 10 minutes from time.
Jones-Waite provided the assist slipping a precision pass to release Hall on the left of the box and he showed unbelievable composure taking several touches to ensure he was perfectly set up before rifling a shot high into the net.
Hanson and Jones-Waite had late chances to kill off the game for Springhead. Yet they were also indebted to central defender Jack Donlan for an acrobatic goalline clearance in the 88th minute to save his goalkeeper’s blushes.
It was amazing how fate also intervened as Hall, scorer of the match-winning goal, would not have been here but for Covid-19.
Former Firbank Primary and Royton and Crompton School pupil Hall, who graduated with a degree in sports management from the University of Connecticut having been on a scholarship, returned home after sustaining an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury to his knee which scuppered a trial which he had been offered by Toronto FC.
He joined Springhead to regain fitness but, had he been able to get a flight back to the United States, would have done so to join his fiancé in Mississippi where he plans to coach.
Hall has been delighted with his recent goalscoring spree, explaining: “My form has picked up in the last few games and the goals have been good for my confidence.
“It has been great playing up front with Ryan and Jordan. I could have scored a hat-trick in the final which is testimony to the service I get.”