STOWMARKET Town manager Paul Musgrove said it was the ‘perfect moment’ to bring on Josh Mayhew who then scored from the penalty spot in their Turners Hyundai Suffolk Premier Cup Semi-Final victory over Leiston.
Mayhew was preparing to come on as a substitute when Stowmarket were awarded a penalty for a handball by Leiston skipper Seb Dunbar in the 75th minute of Wednesday’s semi-final at Needham Market FC.
The striker scored from the spot before adding a third in the 89th minute to seal a 3-0 win and secure a first Premier Cup Final appearance for Stowmarket since losing 1-0 to Newmarket Town in the 1996-97 season. The ball is pictured above entering the net as Mayhew sends Leiston keeper Sam Donkin the wrong way. Photograph: Paulk Voller.
Musgrove had no hesitation in sending on the striker, whose season has been dogged by injury, to take the crucial spot kick.
He said: “Josh is a penalty-taker and he also had a little bit of anger in himself from not getting on (as a substitute) on Saturday, so I thought it was the perfect moment to say ‘go and show me’ and that’s exactly what he did.”
His manager was also pleased that Mayhew was in the right place to score from close range after Leiston keeper Sam Donkin had parried Chris Casement’s shot to add the third late on.
“There are bits around his game we have been trying to get into him, and not just him, people in the front third of the pitch where we have struggled a little bit, so we are continually working with them and there he was ‘Johnny on the Spot’ as he does,” said Musgrove.
Stowmarket had taken the lead through an Ollie Saunders own goal after 31 minutes and Musgrove was delighted with the response shown by his players following Saturday’s 2-1 loss at Isthmian League North title rivals Aveley.
He said: “They reacted well and it started from after the game on Saturday with recovery and they all took the information on board. They have come out and shown that with their energy levels and their quality on the ball on what was a lively pitch as it started to drizzle before kick-off, so they reacted really well and I am so proud of them.”
Musgrove’s side made light of missing regular centre back pairing Joe Jefford and Tom Bullard, while Ipswich Town loanee Tommy Smith slotted in seamlessly on debut at left back.
“Jack Ainsley and Josh Curry at centre half were absolutely outstanding and we know what JJ (Joe Jefford) and Bully (Tom Bullard) bring to the party when they are playing, so that was huge, but at the end of the day we have got a squad and it was built around that flexibility and people being able to drop into positions and Tommy Smith came in at left back and was outstanding,” he said.
Looking ahead to the both the title run-in and the final at Colchester United FC against either Kirkley & Pakefield or Needham Market, Musgrove said: “It’s exactly what we wanted and everybody at the club from the volunteers to the chairman to everyone on the Board deserves it and hopefully we get a few results in the run-in and we end the season successfully.”
Leiston joint manager Chris Wigger said: “I am desperately disappointed. It was the right result as they were better than us on the night and rightly so they are in the cup final.”
Wigger said that the own goal was ‘a catastrophe of errors’ and that Dunbar had denied in the changing room after the game that he had handled the ball when conceding the penalty.
He continued: “It doesn’t take anything away from the fact that we weren’t good enough to win the tie on the night. Your performance has to be of a certain level to win a semi-final and we have to be honest with ourselves…you make your own luck and we didn’t really deserve anything out of tonight in my opinion.”
With Leiston’s season-long challenge for the play-offs now effectively over, Wigger admitted: “It's going to be a very disappointing end to the season.
“I will be brutally honest with you, as I am walking off the pitch one of our own supporters has shouted a load of abuse at me. I have to expect that as paying customers people are entitled to their opinion, but on the flip side of that we have achieved more points at this stage of the season already than Leiston have ever achieved in this league that we are currently playing in.
“We are not finished yet and we have also reached a cup semi-final. Prior to coming here (to the club) we were fighting relegation and yet that is what I have to face after this defeat.”