London Senior Cup Final (sponsored by Coventry Scaffolding)
Wednesday 9 May 2018 @ Hendon FC
Balham FC 4 Cray Valley (Paper Mills) FC 1
A cracking evening of entertaining football at Silver Jubilee Park saw Balham win the Senior Cup at the first time of asking, just twelve months after lifting the Senior Trophy.
The first real action of the match happened in the fifth minute and resulted in a penalty for the Combined Counties League Premier Division side as Balham’s Jordan Alonge was tripped in the box by Cem Tumkaya and Tomasz Wocial planted his spot kick low to Andy Walker’s left for the opening goal of the game.
Cray Valley came into this match as the cup holders although, in reality, only two players remained from the side that defeated Metropolitan Police FC at Imber Court in 2017. However, the club indicated that they were in no mood to give their title up easily and equalised in the 12th minute through Tumkaya when Alex Nelson’s free kick from 35 yards out found the head of the tall centre half and Haydn Read was given no chance.
Chances came and went at both ends as this pulsating match ebbed and flowed but it was Balham who scored next in the 24th minute. Good work by Ibrahim Olutade and Alonge set up the chance for James Gallagher to score from the edge of the penalty area and put Balham in front at the half time interval.
The first goal of the second half was always going to be crucial and, slightly fortuitously, it came Balham’s way in the 57th minute. A through ball by Anis Nuur set Olutade free in the penalty area. As Tommy Osborne came out to challenge the forward the ball ricocheted off the Balham No. 9, over the stranded Walker and bounced into the open goal to give Balham a two goal cushion.
As the Southern Counties East League side searched for a way back into the game, frustration temporarily got the better of Osborne in the 70th minute as he conceded a free kick for a foul on Alonge and collected a caution for his troubles. Hamish Frew found Olutade with the set piece and the centre forward notched his second of the game, and Balham’s fourth, with a nonchalant flick over Walker that just evaded a covering defender on its way in.
Cray created some half chances after that but, in all honesty, Balham looked the more likely to score again and it took the frame of the goal on two separate occasions to spare any further blushes for the Kent-based side.
A friendly and jubilant pitch invasion greeted the final whistle as the Balham die-hards in a crowd of 317 mingled with their heroes. Eventually, the playing area was cleared and it was left to London FA Chairman, George Dorling, on behalf of the Competition Sponsor, Coventry Scaffolding Ltd., to present the prestigious silverware to Balham’s skipper Jake Henry.
Balham: Haydn Read, Luke Fenlon (Michael McConnell 85), Jake Henry, James Gallagher (Josh Benson 89), Marco Erriu, Hamish Frew, Anis Nuur, Arsen Ujkaj, Ibrahim Olutade, Jordan Alonge, Tomasz Wocial (Khalid Savage 82). Unused subs: Michael Neish, Elliot Garcia
Cray Valley (Paper Mills): Andy Walker, Tommy Osborne, Matthew Parsons, Jack White (Enoch Adjei 62), Cem Tumkaya, Ashley Sains, Denzel Gayle (Sam Bailey 79), Josh James, Kevin Lisbie, Alex Nelson, Ryan Flack (Calum Willock 62). Unused subs: Simon Glover, Connor Dobson
Referee: Lee Brennan
Assistant Referees: Dele Sotimirin, Tom Danaher
Fourth Official: Paul Howard