ALRESFORD Town yesterday became the first club in more than 20 years to lift the Sydenhams Wessex League Cup for a second season running.
Not since Thatcham Town achieved back-to-back victories in 1991 and ’92 have the holders successfully defended the trophy.
The mighty Magpies were 4-1 up inside 20 minutes against newly-crowned Division One champions Petersfield Town and surged on for a runaway 7-2 victory. It was the sixth trophy lifted in two remarkable years for the Arlebury Park outfit with Warren Bentley’s hat-trick taking his season’s tally to a breathtaking 58.
But as the post-match celebrations subsided at Bemerton’s Western Way ground, there was a hint of sadness that this was, in all likelihood, the last hurrah for the team so brilliantly built and managed by Winchester City-bound duo Tim Cole and Danny Robinson.
With a new team boss expected to be unveiled this week, the future of this irresistible attacking unit is unknown.
Chairman Trevor Ingram has expressed his desire for the players to stay and, while man-of-the-match Bentley is hopeful several will stick with the club, the 24-year-old himself will almost certainly be moving on.
“By the sounds of it not all the lads will be looking to go, so hopefully they’ll stay and Alresford will have another good season,” he said.
“I haven’t decided what I’ll do yet. I was waiting for the end of the season to sit down and have a think about it.
“I’m a trainee PE teacher at Sholing Technology College and I’ll be looking for my first full-time post starting in September,” he explained. “I’ll probably stay working in the local area and (football-wise) I probably need a new challenge. All my senior career has been with Alresford.
“It’s sad for the team to be breaking up, but Trevor’s done a great job as chairman and he’ll look to build a strong team again. “Hopefully some of these lads will stay and they’ll bring through a few of the reserves who were quality in Saturday’s (Wyvern League) cup final against Sholing.”
With Alresford having netted 125 league goals as Sydenhams Premier runners-up and Petersfield totting up 118 in Division One, a high-scoring final was always on the cards.
But surely no one in their wildest dreams would have envisaged five goals and a penalty miss in the opening half-hour!
“It was like a basketball match to start with,” smiled Magpies co-boss Robinson, who waited just three minutes for Bentley to open his account from Dominic Cope’s lay-off.
Steve Cammack replied two minutes later from Jack James’ assist but, as good as the Division One outfit looked going forward, they were prised open time and time again at the back.
Alresford reclaimed the lead on seven minutes when skipper Stuart Mott rose unmarked to head home Zach Glasspool’s free kick and Glasspool fired home the next two himself in the tenth and 20th minutes.
Had Cammack converted a penalty rather harshly awarded against Lee Wood for handball, there might have been hope of a Petersfield fightback, but Magpies keeper Jason Collins denied him.
Wing wizard Mike Asare showed flashes of individual skill for the underdogs but, team-wise, Alresford were a class apart.
Four became five on 57 minutes when Bentley steered home his second from Glasspool’s chest-down and the Magpies’ No9 supplied another assist – this time a cheeky flick – as Chris Manning coolly converted number six.
Asare instigated the move from which Joe Richardson’s well-placed strike made it 6-2.
But, fittingly, it was Bentley who had the last word, initially slipping over inside the box, but bouncing straight back up to bury sub Dan Strange’s assist.