RETAINING the KBB NEFF Suffolk Premier Cup provides a platform for Leiston to build on for next season.
So says manager Stuart Boardley following his side’s 3-2 victory over Felixstowe & Walton United in Wednesday night’s final at Portman Road.
Striker Matt Blake netted a hat-trick to put Leiston in control, but the Seasiders struck twice late on through a Jack Ainsley penalty and Jordy Matthews to set up a tense finish. Blake's third goal is pictured above.
Boardley, who took over as manager earlier in the season, said: “I am delighted as this final has been our main focus for the best part of a month now, and I could not have asked for any more from the players. They have given their all from the first minute to the last.
“Winning the cup gives up a platform to move into next season. We have a lot of work to do in the summer with some players moving on and recruiting others as well as bringing through the Youth. That is a big part of what we are trying to do. We are laying foundations that will hold us in good stead for the coming years.”
Boardley paid tribute to striker Blake, who has endured a difficult season at times in front of goal.
He said: “Matt is a great striker, there is no doubt about that. He has a lot of natural finishing ability and we have been working on his confidence over the last month and it is great to see him come good at the right time.
“He has had a difficult season at times, but he has got used to the demands and he has come up trumps tonight, so he deserves credit for that.”
Boardley also had words for departing trio – long-serving duo Joe Jefford and Patrick Brothers – and Christy Finch, who look as though they will be joined by goalkeeper Marcus Garnham in departing Victory Road now the season is over.
“They have all been great servants to the club and we wish them well – all three of them have been fantastic” he said.
Felixstowe & Walton United's Jordy Matthews (No.10) steers his shot beyond Leiston keeper Marcus Garnham to score the Seasiders' second goal. Photograhs: Paul Voller.
He also praised influential skipper and centre back Tom Bullard, who played for 79 minutes despite suffering from two broken ribs.
“He is a warrior – not many people would do that and it shows his commitment to the cause,” said Boardley.
Bullard, who is getting married in six weeks’ time, has now appeared in eight Premier Cup Finals and has won five times – three with former club Bury Town and twice with Leiston.
On each of the four occasions he has won at Portman Road it has coincided with being in the away dressing room.
Felixstowe & Walton United Manager Ian Watson said he felt Blake finishing was the difference between the two sides on the night.
“If we had gone in and lost the game 3-0 we would have been disappointed. We created enough chances in the game, but that is what we are about we don’t stop and we don’t give up.
“We keep going for 90 minutes and I thought it was going to be another 3-0 turnaround like we have seen (with both Liverpool and Tottenham in their Champions League Semi-Finals) over the last few days, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be. But we had a little chance and I thought here we go.
“I am proud of our boys and what we have done this season, but credit to Leiston. The boy Blake is absolute quality and he got a hat-trick that has won the game. It is disappointing the goals we conceded – don’t get me wrong, their first goal was quality the way they moved the ball and got into the box and his finishing was top drawer.”