MATT Blake netted a hat-trick after Leiston survived a late fightback from Felixstowe & Walton United to lift the KBB NEFF Suffolk Premier Cup.
Leiston led 3-0 after 72 minutes, but the Seasiders scored twice in the final five minutes through a Jack Ainsley penalty and Jordy Matthews to make for a thrilling finale in Wednesday night’s final in front of 1,382 spectators at Portman Road.
The final scoreline was flattering to Felixstowe, who were second best to Leiston and Blake, who demonstrated a striker’s instinct and some clinical finishing.
It took Leiston, who entered the final on the back of an 11-game run without a win in the Evo-Stik League South Premier Division Central, just five minutes to break the deadlock.
Left back Seb Dunbar, who like Felixstowe’s Ethan Clarke provided an attacking threat down his side’s left, swept a glorious crossfield pass to Christy Finch on the right-hand side of the penalty area. Finch displayed immaculate control before pulling the ball back into the path of Blake to sidefoot home.
Blake and Finch kept the Seasiders’ defence at full stretch, while Felixstowe offered little going forward, and Jack Spurling produced a good save to deny Blake from an angle as he turned his shot around the far post, before a jinking run by Dunbar ended in him poking the ball straight at Spurling.
It took Leiston just three minutes of the second period to underline their authority as Finch got away down the left and cut the ball back for Blake, who also scored in last season's final, to sidefoot home inside the near post from six yards out.
Leiston striker Matt Blake (blue shirt) sidefoots home his second goal from six yards out past Felixstowe & Walton United goalkeeper Jack Spurling. Photographs: Paul Voller
The Bostik League North side responded with Miles Powell sending a shot across the face of the Leiston goal before Joe Francis, who joined the Seasiders from Leiston two years ago and was playing his last game before retiring, had his swansong cut short after 55 minutes following a clash of heads.
Finch, a man-of-the-match candidate in his final outing for Leiston but for Blake stealing his thunder, was denied again by Spurling before crossing to the far post for Dominic Docherty to head back across goal and on to the top of the crossbar.
A slick passing move culminated in Garnham beating away Powell’s fierce drive and then holding on to Joe Bloomfield’s follow-up header, before Leiston put the result seemingly beyond doubt in the 72nd minute.
Midfielder Matt Rutterford tried his luck from 25 yards and Blake, standing near the penalty spot, controlled the shot and swivelled before planting his shot beyond Spurling to complete his hat-trick.
Clarke’s piledriver then forced Garnham to beat the ball away again before Docherty received a second yellow card for pushing Rhys Barber as he tried to head home at the far post from a right-wing cross.
Jack Ainsley, a member of the Leiston side that lifted the cup 12 months ago, sent former team-mate Garnham the wrong way from the resultant spot kick.
Two minutes into the five added on a ball into the Leiston box was headed back across goal for Matthews to volley past the exposed Garnham, but despite Felixstowe’s late fightback Leiston deservedly held on to retain the trophy.
The cup and medals were presented by Roger Peck of The KBB Centre and Jon Crane of NEFF, sponsors of the competition.
Felixstowe & Walton United: Jack Spurling, Joe Bloomfield, Ethan Clarke, Josh Kerridge, Rhys Barber, Dan Davis, Joe Francis (sub Kye Ruel, 55 mins), Jack Ainsley, Liam Hillyard (sub Darren Mills, 84 mins), Jordy Matthews, Miles Powell (sub Rhys Henry, 82 mins). Unused subs: Jamal Wiggins, Stuart Ainsley.
Leiston: Marcus Garnham, Kyle Hammond, Seb Dunbar, Noel Aitkens, Joe Jefford, Tom Bullard (sub Harry Knights, 79 mins), Byron Lawrence, Matt Rutterford (sub Robert Eagle, 75 mins), Matt Blake, Dominc Docherty, Christy Finch (sub Patrick Brothers, 85 mins). Unused subs: Will Davies, Charlie Beckwith.
Referee: Callum Walchester.