COPLESTONIANS are celebrating ‘a fantastic milestone’ in the club's history after reaching the CNet Training Suffolk Senior Cup Final for the first time.
They defeated fellow Macron SIL Senior Division side Crane Sports 5-4 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Friday’s delayed 2019-20 semi-final tie at Needham Market FC.
Tom Fowler put Cops in front but James Blades equalised just before half-time, and with no further scoring in the second period the outcome was settled by penalties.
Both teams scored their first four penalties with spot kicks that gave neither keeper any chance, before Cranes’ Matt Oxbrow saw his effort strike the crossbar.
Lee Willcox then stepped up to send Cops, who were playing in their first-ever semi-final in the competition, through to the final, where they will face either Henley Athletic or Ipswich Wanderers.
Coplestonians manager Ian Bristo said he was ‘hugely proud’ of his players.
“All my players put in maximum effort and commitment, showing a will to win against a great side that hadn’t been beaten for 21 months! Skipper James Sadler and midfield man Lee Willcox were inspirational on the night.
“I am hugely proud – they gave everything on the night which is exactly what we knew we needed to do if we were to stand any chance of progressing into the final at the expense of a side that sets the benchmark in the SIL.
“This is a fantastic milestone in the club’s 47-year history and a culmination of many years’ hard work, especially the founder members of the club, chairman Wolfe Powell and vice-chairman Dave Little.
“This will be my tenth season leading the first team. I’m hugely proud of how we’ve progressed during that period but I’m not in it for personal accolades – it’s about the club and the players; that’s what pleases me most – to see what it means and to reward those at the club that have been there from the start and how much it meant to the players!”
Bristo said he would not be at Whitton United FC on Wednesday to watch the second semi-final as his players will be training in preparation for Saturday’s league game at Haughley United.
He said he had no preference whether Cops will face SIL side Henley Athletic or higher-league Ipswich Wanderers.
“Both are excellent sides and both will provide us with a huge challenge – we know it’s going to be tough whoever we face. We will definitely be the underdogs in most people’s eyes.”
Paul Tietjen, who is a member of the Cranes management team, said: “We knew they would come out all guns blazing and try to get an early goal and have something to hang on to.
“We looked really disjointed in the first 20 minutes but got back to how we were playing six months ago and equalised before half time but had earlier missed two sitters which would have broken their spirit a bit.
“We controlled the second half possession-wise but could not break them down. Cops defended really well and we got frustrated and I think they just about deserved to go through.
“They are a team who have always been there or thereabouts and have now added some experienced players. It would be nice to see them go on and win it.
“We will now have to re-focus with the squad we have now got for this season.”
Cops took the lead after 15 minutes when Tom Fowler reacted first to fire home from close range after Yani Duka’s angled shot was pushed into his path by keeper Jack Foster.
Duka then struck the bar and Perrie Soanes skewed the rebound wide, while Mo Fike headed over twice when well-placed for Cranes and they also hit the bar before Blades equalised following a fine run and pass from Teon Leggett.
Cops’ best chance in the second half came when a Willcox volley was cleared off the line, before Cranes thought they has scored the winner with 15 minutes remaining, but it was disallowed for offside.
So to shoot-out and after Jordan Godbold, Dave King, Yani Duka and Joe Francis had all netted for Cops, Willcox scored the decisive penalty to spark wild celebrations among the Coplestonians' players and their supporters among the crowd of 235.