MANAGER Brendan Tuck praised his AFC Kesgrave side’s character after their thrilling fightback to win the Suffolk Junior Cup.
AFC Kesgrave trailed 2-0 to fellow Touchline SIL Division One side Trimley Red in Thursday’s final at Portman Road thanks to goals from Dan Abbott and David Gibson.
Lyndon Dowson-Alexander then saw his 57th minute penalty saved by Trimley Red Devils keeper Matt Ray, before the livewire striker scored twice in three minutes.
AFC Kesgrave substitute Gavin Vince was then sent off for an elbow before Jerome Laidlaw curled home to seal a 3-2 victory in the 90th minute.
Tuck said: “We were quite poor in the first-half, and the players were told that at half-time! We certainly showed more intent in the second-half, but when we missed the penalty I thought that was going to be the turning point.
“But we had energy on the bench and I made two changes in the centre of midfield and we got tight to their eight (Alfie Matthews) and ten (Ricardo Phillips) and nullified them.
“Jerome Laidlaw deserves credit for closing down which led to the rebound for our first goal, but Lyndon’s finish for the second goal was awesome, and Jerome supplied a great finish for the winner.
“We have beaten a good team – congratulations to them on winning promotion – but we did think they might tire the longer the game went on.
“When we went down to ten men we showed a lot of character to go on and win the game.”
Tuck said of veteran striker Vince’s dismissal: “Gavin apologised immediately when he was sent off; he has never done anything like that since he came to the club.”
Joint Trimley Red Devils Manager Matt Egelton said: “It is hard to take, to be honest, conceding three goals like that in the last 15 minutes.
“We were 2-0 up and coasting, but unfortunately we took our foot off the pedal a little, but that’s not to take anything away from AFC Kesgrave, who didn’t stop for 90 minutes.
“After missing the penalty you would have thought they would lose faith and that it was not going to be their night, but instead it spurred them on.”
Trimley will be playing in the Senior Division of the Touchline SIL next season, after finishing runners-up to Claydon in Division One.
Egelton added: “It is heart-breaking to not come away with any silverware after losing just one league game all season and going 24 league games unbeaten towards the end of the season and then lose in a cup final.
“But we are looking forward to playing in the Senior Division for the first time next season and see what that brings for the club.”
AFC Kesgrave's players are pictured above celebrating with the Suffolk Junior Cup. Photograph courtesy of Ben Pooley.