JEROME Laidlaw curled home a 90th minute winner to complete a dramatic comeback by ten-man AFC Kesgrave in the Suffolk Junior Cup.
AFC Kesgrave defeated Touchline SIL Division One rivals Trimley Red Devils 3-2, after trailing 2-0 with 18 minutes remaining, at Portman Road on Thursday night.
Trimley Red Devils looked to be coasting to victory when David Gibson scored their second goal a minute after half-time, to add to Dan Abbott’s opener.
Lyndon Dowson-Alexander then missed a penalty before scoring twice in three minutes to restore parity for AFC Kesgrave, who then had substitute Gavin Vince sent off.
With the prospect of a penalty shoot-out looming, AFC Kesgrave broke out of defence and Laidlaw kept his composure to score and spark wild celebrations.
Trimley Red Devils, like AFC Kesgrave playing in their first Junior Cup Final, had looked the more likely side in the opening quarter of the match and deservedly went ahead in the 28th minute.
Abbott burst down the left past two defenders and although his first effort was saved by Richard Lynch, the striker hooked home the rebound.
Some spectators were still taking their seats after the interval when Alfie Matthews lifted the ball into the path of David Gibson to hook home a second goal to put Trimley Red Devils firmly in command.
AFC Kesgrave, who made five second-half substitutions which influenced the course of the outcome, were handed a lifeline in the 57th minute when Dowson-Alexander was tripped by Rob Bozier, but his penalty was saved by the trailing leg of goalkeeper Matt Ray.
Lynch did well to keep out a piledriver from Ross Driver soon after, and Trimley appeared to be cruising towards victory before the match turned on its head in the 72nd minute.
Ray came out of his penalty area to clear from the right-back position, but the ball cannoned off Laidlaw and looped back towards goal for Dowson-Alexander to pass into the unguarded goal.
Dowson-Alexander, a losing finalist with Crane Sports in last season’s Suffolk Senior Cup, equalised three minutes later, latching on to Brendan Daly’s through ball, rounding a defender and coolly finishing past Ray.
This topsy-turvy contest took another twist in the 83rd minute when AFC Kesgrave substitute Vince received a straight red card for lashing out at Phillips as they challenged for the ball.
Ryan Chidlow almost won it for Trimley Red Devils in the last minute, lobbing over Lynch but Richard Burges got back to usher the ball away from the goalline and to safety.
AFC Kesgrave then immediately broke away down the left, Dowson-Alexander feeding Laidlow, who showed great composure to curl the ball beyond Ray to settle a thrilling final.
The cup and medals were presented by Suffolk FA Director Roger Peck.
Laidlaw (centre) is pictured above celebrating with his AFC Kesgrave team-mates after the final whistle. Photograph courtesy of Ben Pooley.
Trimley Red Devils: Matt Ray, Kristian Haighton, Josh Hewitt, Sam Osborne, Jake Hollis, Rob Bozier, Ross Driver, Alfie Matthews, Dan Abbott, Ricardo Phillips, David Gibson. Used subs: Matt West, Kyle Clover, Ryan Chidlow. Unused subs: Luke Hopkins, Steve Ray.
AFC Kesgrave: Richard Lynch, Brendan Daly, Karl Sandilands, Ben Fowler, Richard Burges, Nick Albins, Luke Mulley, Luke Farris, Chris Eley, Lyndon Dowson-Alexander, Jerome Laidlaw. Used subs: Gavin Vince, Nathaniel Coldwell, Henry Garland, Phil Jude, George Tuck.
Referee: Gareth Moir.