Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup – Tuesday 10th January – by Des Williams, Letcombe FC
Letcombe suffered their first defeat of the season against Division One Long Crendon in the Bluefin Sports Challenge Cup. With heavy rain during the day, this was one of the few games able to take place because of the 3G surface at Oxford City F C.
Letcombe were missing striker Josh Fowler and player-manager Luke Stone, and were slow to start. Long Crendon had the better of the opening exchanges and took the lead after 15 minutes when the Letcombe defence failed to clear a long ball down the middle, allowing Jack Gaul to score. The visitors gradually improved, and Kieran Kerby had a shot parried by home keeper Josh Cullen.
With the wing behind them, Letcombe produced a much better second half performance. James Webster fired a shot inches over the bar in the first few seconds of the half, and the vistors deservedly equalised on the hour when an inswinging corner from Redd Pratley eluded Cullen and entered the far top corner of the net. Back came Long Crendon, and George Ashworth restored their lead within two minutes, and another Long Crendon goal soon afterwards seemed to make the game safe. Letcombe gave the ball away on the half way line, and a quick break down the right followed by a low cross was well finished by Oli Lethoridge. Letcombe continued to battle, and were given hope 7 minutes from time when a free kick from 45 yards from Sam Mulvey slipped through the hands of Cullen and into the net. Letcombe were level two minutes later, Jack Daley heading home a right wing corner. Daley was dismissed for a high challenge as the game moved into added time, and the hosts snatched the winner in the fifth extra minute, Ryan Sagar scoring from close range.
Despite their first loss, Letcombe could reflect on the fact that they had already beaten two division one teams in this competition and had gone very close against a third one. They can now turn their attention to the league, the Chairmans Cup and the Berks & Bucks Charles Twelftree Trophy. There is still a lot to play for.