Cornard United book themselves a date at Portman Road with Suffolk Senior Cup semi-final win over Ipswich Wanderers
Match winner Max Dinnell believes Cornard United’s 2-1 Suffolk Senior Cup semi-final victory over Ipswich Wanderers showed how far they have come since Michael Schofield and Matt Grove took over as player-managers.
The pair had been handed the role as the club’s under-18s managers at the start of the campaign, in a side led under Dinnell’s captaincy.
But at the start of September, five games into the campaign, chairman Harvey Doherty took a gamble to arrest signs of a season of struggle, replacing Liam Aves within 24 hours with what are the league’s youngest managers.
Their mid-table league position in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North with four games to go suggests it has paid off.
But with the side booking an extra game on the end with a gritty 2-1 victory in the face of adversity at Hadleigh United FC against divisional rivals Ipswich Wanderers on Friday night, the justification of the decision was left beyond any doubt.
Under the lights at Ipswich Town’s Portman Road on Friday, May 10 (7.30pm), Cornard will look to end a 30-year wait for a trophy in the CNet Training Suffolk Senior Cup final against lower-league Achilles. The Ipswich-based side overcame Henley Athletic in a penalty shoot-out at Felixstowe & Walton United in the other last four tie on Friday.
Dinnell, still 17 despite breaking into the first-team last season, was in the right place at the right time to steer in Jack Graham’s effort in the 73rd minute to restore the Ards’ slender advantage 10 minutes after after Josh Folkes had turned in a free-kick 10 minutes previously. It had levelled the tie after Lewis Blanchett’s early sublime flick-in from a corner.
Dinnell then had the final say in his side booking their first Senior Cup final since their only win in it in 1988/1989, deflecting away a header from opposition goalkeeper Ben Mayhew from a corner which proved to be the last action of the night.
Not that he knew much about it. “It came off the post and straight off my face; I had no idea,” he said. “It was a big night for the club and I am proud of everyone.
“Little old Cornard back as a name, really. It is big for the club to be back into a final where we believe we belong.
“The introduction of Matt and Mike has helped the club so much and we have a new belief. To push on further to Portman Road and potentially win the cup would be massive for Harvey and the club and show us what a journey we have come on. It would mean so much to every player.
“The performance today with each individual shows how much we wanted to win today and that’s where it gets us.”
Dinnell would likely not have been on the pitch for the hairy moments in stoppage-time, if Cornard had not already been forced to use all their substitutes to cover injuries by the 67th minute.
The Sudbury-based midfielder said: “I personally went down with cramp and couldn’t move for five minutes! I was struggling big time but I knew I had to push on for the team.
“The character of the team was on display and last season when we went to 1-1 we would have lost 4-1 but it shows how we stick together as a team and push on and win the game.”
Cornard, in their red away kits, were well backed in a crowd nearing 200, but lost their stand-in captain Sean Bartlett, in the absence of the unavailable Dan Clark, just after the half-an-hour mark to a hamstring problem.
By that time they were 1-0 ahead with Blanchett executing a superb Johan Cruyff-style flick through his legs on a low corner from Michael Schofield 19 minutes in.
It came after they had survived some early chances from Wanderers, who had hit the crossbar from James Watling’s header three minutes previously, before the offside flag was raised as the ball rebounded back.
Jack Graham sent an effort whistling above the angle of post and bar before Bartlett’s replacement, Ezra Drann, was let down before a weak finish after doing well to pick a defender’s pocket and run through, as Cornard looked to double their advantage.
Goalkeeper Grove had preserved their lead with a smart block after coming off his line to thwart Marcus Taylor after Charlie’s Hayes’ defensive error.
Micahel Schofield saw his free-kick stopped by a diving save from Mayhew early in the second half as Cornard came out strong.
But they lost goalscorer Blanchett to an ankle injury and shortly after Wanderers were celebrating an equaliser as Foles flicked in substitute Jack Severy’s pacey free-kick.
The Cornard armband had to be passed on again as Michael Schofield limped off with a knee injury but it was not long before Graham was sent clear by substitute Christian Walsh and after he rounded the goalkeeper, Dinnell was on hand running in to ensure his effort went in.
Wanderers pushed hard to send the tie to penalties but Folkes was guilty of a bad late miss before goalkeeper Mayhew’s late close shave.
Cornard: Grove, M Schofield (Hurley 67’), Dix, McGibbon, Hayes, Baker, Dinnell, A Schofield, Bartlett (Drann 33’), Blanchett (Walsh 57’), Graham. Unused subs: Dowding, Brennan. Attendance: 185.
Free Press Man of the Match: Max Dinnell.