DAVE Tibbitts netted a late winner for Henley Forest of Arden to sink Claverdon 2-1 in the final of the Stratford Alliance’s Division One KO Cup.
With both Henley and Claverdon securing a win each in the league matches between the sides, the final at the Home Guard club Tiddington was expected to be a close encounter and the game that ensued was a tense, exciting match for the almost 100-strong crowd.
The first half was an even affair with both sides looking dangerous from set pieces, but few clear-cut chances were created by either side.
It was Henley who struck first midway through the first half as Tom Tarbuck took advantage of Claverdon’s indecision in the box from a Henri Lewis long throw to nod home the opening goal.
The dry pitch made free-flowing football difficult, but the players were showing excellent commitment to the game, making it a very hard-fought contest across the pitch.
Claverdon ended the half on top with a series of free-kicks, but these were well defended by Forest who went into half time with Tarbucks’ goal keeping them ahead.
The second half brought a couple of fresh faces into the Claverdon line-up and these had an immediate effect.
Claverdon had a sustained period of pressure for the first ten minutes of the half and it was their turn to take advantage of Henley’s inability to clear the second ball from a corner, with the equaliser expertly driven home with an angled strike.
The goal seemed to further energize Claverdon and Henley defended resolutely under a further ten minutes of pressure.
With 25 minutes to go manager Matt McCarthy made two changes which evened out the game again.
Jamie Walsh replaced by Neil Jones who had an excellent evening providing defensive cover in the centre of midfield while Jordan Clark replaced Tibbitts at right-back who had defended resolutely against the heavy Claverdon pressure.
The fresh energy provided by these two allowed Henley to take control of the game and with 20 minutes to go the decisive change was made, with Dave Tibbitts replacing the brilliant Tarbuck who had been a constant nuisance to the Claverdon defence and an excellent outlet all evening.
The strength of Tibbitts unsettled the Claverdon defence and it was with five minutes to go that he reacted quickest to a fumble in the box from a corner to head home the winner and bring the cup to Henley.