With table-topping AFC Portchester watching on, the Boatmen’s second string recovered from the blow of having sub Adrian Grijincu sent off four minutes into the second half to beat Dorchester Town 2-1 in a thrilling finale.
Playing their seventh game in 19 days since lifting the Southampton Senior Cup at St Mary’s, Dave Fear’s side showed great character bouncing back from Saturday’s 3-0 defeat by Alresford Town in the Wyvern Challenge Cup final at Winchester.
That loss shattered their chances of a quadruple, but they could still complete a hat-trick of trophies by beating Petersfield Town in the Wyvern Challenge Shield at AFC Portchester’s Wicor Rec HQ tomorrow (7.45pm). Manager Fear said: “We were beaten by the better side on the day in the Cup final. To try and win four trophies in a season takes it out of you, playing so many games.
“Monday’s was our 40th game of the season and six of our squad play for the under-18s as well as college, so it was all about character.” Dorchester arrived looking to spoil the party, knowing a win would have clinched them runners-up spot behind Portchester.
They went ahead halfway through an evenly balanced first half when Boatmen’s centre-back Lewis Fear headed a cross into his own net.
Grijincu’s sending-off could have worked against Sholing. Instead, it seemed to inspire them as, with nothing to lose, they played 3-4-2 and increased their urgency.
On 74 minutes Jamie Mansell’s free kick was only half cleared, inviting Jamie Craven to equalise with a shot into the bottom corner.
With Jamie Griggs, 19, Lewis Fear, 18, and Owen Roundell, 17, working hard to keep Dorchester at bay and Ryan Lambert running himself into the ground, that was the way it stayed going into six minutes of added time.
But Sholing – champions for the last three seasons – were in no mood to surrender their crown and the ten men duly won it when Callum Parker slung in a low cross from the left which was missed by everyone, including the Dorchester ’keeper, sparking mass celebrations from the home side.
“This is our best title win so far,” smiled manager Fear. “Down to the wire and practically the last minute of nine months’ hard work. This is why we love football.”