THURSDAY’S Blue Square Solutions Suffolk Boys’ Under-18 Midweek Cup Final will be a special occasion for Leiston.
Not only will it be the club’s first final, but manager Matt Morling will take charge of a team for the last time after 17 years in Youth management – and wants to go out on a high!
Standing in their way are AFC Sudbury, who have won the cup in each of the last four years it has been contested, the competition having not been played last season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The final is taking place on the 3G pitch at Bloomfields, home of Needham Market on Thursday, kick-off 7.30pm.
Morling said of Leiston reaching their first final: “It is a fantastic achievement to end two highly disrupted seasons of football with a County Cup final. With it being Leiston’s first it makes it even more special for the squad and the club.
“The squad are a very tight unit with so much potential that have been together for coming up to three years. They had a real taste of success with the FA Youth Cup, narrowly missing out on a trip to MK Dons in the first-round proper.
“This will be the last game together in youth football for the majority of the team, so it makes this final even more important.”
Leiston defeated Felixstowe & Walton United 6-0 in their semi-final at Framlingham Town FC, after scoring three times in the opening three minutes.
Morling said the pleasing aspects of that win were not only the start but his side’s ‘game management’ of the tie.
He said: “I have never seen a game start this way. We were 3-0 up after 2 minutes 36 seconds, which must be a record?
“It would have been quite easy for the boys to take their foot off the pedal and potentially allow Felixstowe back into the game, but we didn’t.
“All credit to Felixstowe as they never gave up and they continued to press even when they were 6-0 down, but the discipline and respect that the boys on the pitch gave was second-to-none and really highlighted how they have matured over the last two seasons.”
Morling is under no illusions as to the size of the task his side face in the final.
He said: “Everyone loves an underdog, don’t they? We have a huge amount of respect for AFC Sudbury, their squad and what they have achieved over the last three to four seasons, but this is about Leiston FC and we will be going out to play our game, nobody else’s.
“We have nothing to lose and everything to gain and it’s 90 minutes for the boys to give everything!”
Leiston (blue shirts) defend against Felixstowe & Walton United (red & white striped shirts) in their Blue Square Solutions Suffolk Boys' Under-18 Midweek Cup Semi-Final at Framlingham Town FC. Photograph: Thomas Bradford. Main photograph: Leiston's Kyle French (blue shirt, No.6) heads home his side's third goal with less than three minutes played
AFC Sudbury Academy Coach Craig Power said he is delighted his players have the chance to play in a cup final this season.
Power said: “To reach the final of this competition again is extremely pleasing and testament to this group of players who have applied themselves in all aspects of our academy.
“Personally, I am delighted that this group of players will get an opportunity to play in a cup final and to have the opportunity to create further memories to go along with our FA Youth Cup run.”
AFC Sudbury defeated Ipswich Wanderers 11-0 in their semi-final at the same venue.
Power said: “We had challenged the boys after our quarter-final win versus Bury Town that our performance levels needed to increase and to see them answer our questions throughout the semi-final was pleasing. We applied ourselves for 90 minutes with all 16 players contributing to the team success.
“One of the key messages will be that we are walking into our ‘home venue’ having beaten Needham Market Academy in the earlier rounds and having played the semi-final on the same pitch that the final will be played on. This will help with players being familiar with the environment and surface.”
To purchase tickets for the final click here
Leiston through to their first U18 final
Boys' U18 Midweek final at Needham
Further county cup tickets now on sale