Echoes FC hold their nerve to clinch the Sunday Junior Cup

Echoes FC celebrate their victory at The County Ground
Echoes FC celebrate their victory at The County Ground

Echoes FC have been crowned Herts FA Sunday Junior Cup champions after beating Church End FC on penalties in an electrifying match at The County Ground in Letchworth.

Echoes took the lead in the 15th minute when Jack Watts guided a diving header at the far past into the back of the net to give his team the lead.

The character we showed to win the penalties was just brilliant.

Echoes manager Paul Joyce

Sam Dempsey missed a great opportunity to level the scores for Church End three minutes later as his volley flew off target after a neat interchange between Carl Edwards and Phil Jackman.

Watts came close to doubling both his tally and Echoes’ lead in the 20th minute, but his brave header was denied well by Church End keeper Will Crowe.

The Church then did well to move the ball down the field before Tom Blackburn’s header could only clip the outside of the upright.

Watts would make no mistake with his finishing late in the first half, though, collecting a loose ball in the box and punishing Church End with a smart driven finish in between bodies.

Church End upped the tempo in the last 30 minutes and they pulled a goal back in the 77th minute. Joe O’Brien’s cross found Jackman in the area, and the tricky forward powered a header home from eight yards.

With the clock ticking down into the final seconds, Church End found the equalizer they were desperately searching for to send the final to extra-time.

Carl Edwards rose highest in a crowded penalty box to flick Sam Dempsey’s set piece over Echoes keeper Max Pynaert into the back of the net with the watch on 93 minutes.

Extra-time kicked off with both teams pressing for a winner, and in the 97th minute Jackman weaved beautifully through the Echoes defence before shooting straight at the keeper.

The game and competition then moved to penalties to decide a winner, with Echoes coming out on top 4-2 to win the shoot-out with successful kicks from James Bundey, Jack Watts, Gary Roberts and Clint Findley.

Echoes manager Paul Joyce said: “I’m so proud of the team today, because Church End were fantastic opposition and the character we showed to win the penalties was just brilliant.

“This team has a great mix of youth and senior players, and I’m just incredibly proud of the club”

Church End boss James Crane added: “I’m just gutted for the team, but it was a great game.

“We’ve been in the situation of chasing games all season, and actually scored in the last minute of the semi-final to come back and win. Unfortunately we couldn’t repeat that today.”