Flackwell Heath 0, Tring Athletic 3
An encouraging season for Flackwell Heath ended on a disappointing note in Leverstock Green this evening as they were deservedly beaten 3-0 by Tring Athletic in the final of the Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division Cup.
Manager Chris Ayres and his assistant Paul Shone were struggling to put their finger on why the Heathens produced such a weak display when silverware was on the table, but they're hopeful they'll grow and learn from the experience.
Having edged past Ardley United in the semi-final thanks to a 92nd minute strike from Fabian Driffill Heath came into the final full of confidence and hopeful of victory against a team who finished several places below them in the final league standings.
However, from the outset they lacked the fluidity and organisation of their opponents. They also looked more hesitant and timid, and vocally were much quieter, as Tring grew into the game and took control of the tie.
You sensed it might not be Flackwell's night from the opening minutes, when the hardworking Godlove Oppong was denied at point blank range by a stunning Isaac Hay save.
It wouldn't be the last time the Heath keeper would be called into action as Athletic sensed an opportunity and went in for the kill. Charlie Miller volleyed just over after 10 minutes but the warning signs were there for Flackwell, and their defences were finally breached in the 16th minute.
Tring worked the ball well down the left and whipped in a dangerous cross from which Ronan Hutchins powered a header past Hay.
It had been coming and, while it briefly stirred Flackwell into a response, the better play continued to come from Tring.
In the 27th minute they came close once more when Eli Hearn's goal bound strike was deflected behind for a corner. The set piece was then sent into the area and, after a slight nudge from behind, Jack Stevens handled the ball into the back of the net.
Fortunately for Heath this was no ‘hand of God’ moment, and the referee rightly blew up for the infringement and booked the player.
Flackwell can't have been dominated like this in many of their matches this season and they struggled to create a chance of note until the 42nd minute.
Even that was a 35-yard attempt from Callum Mapley that was hit in frustration more than anything else with few other options to hand other than to go for goal. The rasping drive was pushed out well by Olly Kiel but if anything, it was another illustration of just how much they'd struggled to get a foothold in the game.
Tring walked off at half-time to hearty applause from their supporters while the Heathens knew a big second half was required to turn the game around.
They did improve in the second half, creating a handful of good chances, however, unfortunately for them the scoreline didn't, in fact it got much worse.
Tring fired home their second of the night after 50 minutes. Oppong looked to have been shoved to the ground in the area and, as his teammates appealed for a penalty, Miller took up possession and blasted a shot beyond Hay from an angle. Playing with confidence now they worked another opening a few minutes later but fired a low shot into the side netting.
Flackwell's chance to get back into the tie came, and went, in the 63rd minute. A through ball was helped on to Driffill who was in on goal but his low shot across the keeper was beaten away and with it went their hopes of a comeback. A few minutes later and Flackwell found themselves further behind to a goal worthy of winning any cup final.
Leo Farruch chased down a ball over the top, skipped past Hay who'd raced out of his goal, and then kept his composure to check back, beat the defender and slot the ball into the bottom corner as Hay and his defenders unsuccessfully tried to get back and cover on the goal line.
Hay pulled off a further fine save to George Carberry a fourth for Tring, while substitute Adiel Mannion also went close with a strike from distance that brushed the crossbar.
Tring probably deserved a fourth on the strength of their performance, however, the game was already well won and had been from early in the second half.
Flackwell's captain Jamie Essex collected a silver shield before the celebrations began for Tring as their captain, Carberry, lifted the Premier Division Cup.