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Saturday 2nd May 2015 ko 15.00

Cheltenham League First Division

FC LAKESIDE 3 (Bowers 55 Griffiths 22 Griffiths 90p)

WHADDON UNITED 3 (Peters 45 Watkins 62 80)

Att 116

At Pitch 4, Dowty Rotal Sports Ground, Down Hatherley Lane, Staverton

Entry FREE

No Programme

A few weeks ago I watched Whaddon United, enjoyed the experience, and paid little or no attention afterwards. I thought their win against Kings AFC would see them lift the Cheltenham League title with ease. So you can imagine my surprise when I saw the league table with them only one point clear with one game left, and my plans for Saturday were immediately changed when I saw that game was away against Lakeside, the second placed club! A shoot-out for the championship shouldn’t be missed.

The ground is interesting too, and given that its multiplicity of pitches are used by fellow Cheltenham League clubs, Kings AFC (playing on the pitch behind), and Churchdown Panthers (who finished 3rd), it does seem to be the kind of place to head to if you want a game, any game to watch on any given Saturday.

Those with longer memories will remember Dowty as a manufacturer of aircraft equipment. They are most famous for making the landing gear for the first Gloster jet aircraft, and propellers for a wide range of aeroplanes. The factory is still nearby, although the firm is now part of the French “Safran” group.

In football terms Dowty Staverton were a Hellenic League side from 1976 to 1985. It’s fair to say they struggled during their stint- their best season saw them finish 13th from 16! Lakeside are no relation, being formed in 1975 and taking their name from the Lakeside Junior School in Up Hatherley, whose playing field they used to use. The FC prefix is a nod to FC Bruge, who made an impression on some of the team with their European exploits!

They are a vibrant bunch, running 17 age-based teams in the Cheltenham area, but the tragedy of the piece for them was that no matter what the result of this game promotion to the Gloucestershire Northern Senior could not happen this time. It wasn’t that the facilities at Dowty aren’t good enough, it was that they didn’t expect to be doing this well, so didn’t complete the application!

Despite the appeal of watching a wedding reception in the clubhouse, complete with bride in her white gown and furry pink slippers, there was a bumper attendance to watch this game, and it was good to see the league officials with the trophies ready for the winners.

And for the best part of an hour those winners looked to be Lakeside, who raced into a two-goal early lead. Whaddon looked firstly shell-shocked, then frustrated and the heavy challenges began to come in, and it was two of these that changed the game. The challenges came from Whaddon’s Kyle Watkins, the first in the 18th minute saw him booked, but a scything tackle on the hour mark looked worthy of another. Referee Ian Hamilton saw fit only to lecture him, and Lakeside’s consternation was obvious when 2 minutes later he equalised, putting the title back in his clubs’ hands.

He scored again, and that looked to be the tie and title settled as the watch ticked into stoppage time. Then Jed Griffiths slammed home a penalty in the 5th minute of injury time; could Lakeside find another goal in the moments left for play? Sadly for Lakeside, moments were all that were left, and not enough to grab that elusive goal.

It was good to see the Lakeside players stay to applaud the Whaddon team as they lifted the trophy, and as I drove away I reflected on the two best teams in this league. I suspect I’ll they’ll end up slugging it out with each other all over again with each other next season, watched very quietly by me!

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