Cornard United lose seven-goal thriller at Portman Road as Achilles claim Suffolk Senior Cup in Michael Schofield and Matt Groves' last game in charge
Despite a late fightback in added time - bringing the scoreline back from 4-1 to 4-3 with 10 men - there was to be no fairytale ending in the CNet Training Suffolk Senior Cup final for Cornard United's joint managers Michael Schofield and Matt Grove in their final game in charge.
The pair had stepped up to become player-managers with the club at a low ebb in September but had turned the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North side into a force to be reckoned with, culminating in leading the club to their first final in 30 years, since their one and only Senior Cup success.
They had announced ahead of tonight's game at Portman Road that they would be relinquishing the managerial reins ahead of next season as they looked to focus on playing again.
But they were unable to sign off their managerial tenure with a prized trophy for the club after lower-league Achilles, who had won the trophy two years previously, punished them for their mistakes to take a 2-0 lead into the break before looking to be home and dry before a late goal frenzy saw Cornard almost take the match to penalties.
With less than two minutes on the clock Achilles, who came third in the Touchline Suffolk & Ipswich League Senior Division, went close when Gavin Van Oene spotted goalkeeper Matt Grove off his line but his floated effort came down on top of the net.
Only the goalframe stopped Cornard opening the scoring in the 10th minute when Dix's thunderous effort rattled the woodwork with Danny Crump beaten.
Achilles came back at them with only a good block from captain Dan Clark denying Danny Grimwood, who had shown good footwork to bamboozle the Cornard defence as he got into the area. From the resultant corner Clark cleared the same player's header away.
The end-to-end pattern of play continued as Andy Schofield's volleyed effort went wide.
But Clark's night soon took a turn for the worse as he slipped in the box and gave away a penalty for handling a low left-wing cross that Grove then saved.
Gavin Van Oene stepped up and send Grove the wrong way, firing the 19th minute penalty low into the bottom-right corner.
After a long injury delay to an Achilles' player, Cornard responded well and thought they had an equaliser in the 25th minute but the offside flag was raised against Sean Bartlett as he converted Andy Schofield's effort, after a race to the ball with the goalkeeper, from close-range.
A curling Lewis Blanchett effort went over soon after, but Achilles almost doibled their lead in the 28th minute when Clark's short back-header was pounced on by Gavin Van Oene only for Grove to push away for a corner. They were almost punished from it but Brad Dix managed to clear off the line.
Jack Graham stretched the defence up the other end with a great run into the box on the half hour mark before Bartlett saw Danny Crump produce a diving save to keep out his follow-up shot.
But four minutes later that failure to convert looked costly as Gavin Van Oene sent through a defence-splitting pass for Lee Grimwood who appeared to send his shot in via Clark after turning back inside the area, with the ball crashing in off the crossbar.
Cornard should have pulled one back in the 40th minute but Bartlett somehow managed not to connect with a great low cross from Max Dinnell.
A lively half ended with Grove having to produce a good save to deny Connor Field in the area before Dix blocked the follow-up shot from Darryn Van Oene to keep Achilles' advantage at just two.
But the Ipswich-based side were celebrating a third within six minutes of the re-start when smart footwork from Dave Grimwood on the edge of the box saw him set up a sight of goal before firing low into the left-hand corner.
Cornard's Andy Schofield wasted a good opportunity up the other end while Dinnell blasted high and wide as luck continued to dessert the Ards in front of goal.
Graham made a strong run into the box but then saw his shot blocked by a covering defender, while the chances continued to come and go as Clark headed across the face of goal from a corner.
Achilles' hunger for more did not diminish despite the 3-0 advantage and Grove had to push an effort from Darryn Van Oene around his near post before Field curled just past the far post from the edge of the area.
It appeared Cornard were to be destined not to score as Bartlett put just wide of the post from a teasing low cross from substitute Christian Walsh in the 83rd minute, before Graham was beaten to a througball by goalkeeper Danny Crump.
But a red card, following a second yellow for dissent from Lewis Blanchett in the 86th minute – who had the ball kicked at him when on the floor injured – eemed to serve to change the game in Cornard's favour.
Four goals followed in five breathless minutes in added time, three of them for the Ards, starting with centre-back Charlie Hayes' close-range finish after Andy Schofield's header was deflected into his path from brother Michael Schofield's free-kick.
That 90th minute strike was quickly followed by Achilles hitting them on the break with substitute Ryan Wragg free to sweep home Field's right-wing cross.
But within two minutes Cornard made it 4-2 when Andy Schofield's header from a corner could not be kept out this time.
The crowd erupted when substitute Ezra Drann provided a cool low finish from a defence-splitting pass to pull it back to 4-3 within a minute.
Sadly for Cornard though, time ran out as Achilles celebrated another Senior Cup success, though the way the game finished left the runners-up to hold their heads high.
Cornard: Grove, M Schofield, Dix (Hurley 75'), McGibbon (Walsh 71'), Hayes, Clark (c), Dinnell (Drann 71'), A Schofield, Bartlett, Blanchett, Graham. Unused subs: Brennan, Dowding.