Mention on the site of Scott Juniper brings back a few memories of the Eastern Junior Alliance side of 1993/94 that achieved double cup success by winning the Eastern Junior Plate (the Final having been held over from the previous season) by defeating Stevenage over two legs, 3-2 away (scorers Scott Juniper, Paul Taylor, Leighton Bloss) and 1-1 at home (scorer Paul Rippingale) and the Ingilby Paints Cup. In the main the team that won the I.P.Cup were made up of 1st year players (several of the 18’s having been drafted into the 1st team by that point) the trophy was won thanks to a sequence of three amazing comebacks.
First up was a Quarter Final tie against an older and more experienced Stanway Rovers side that four weeks previously had won 4-1 at Broad Lane in the league. It all looked rather ominous when Rovers took the lead and were in complete control of the game until a goalkeeping error handed the young Dragons an equalizer as Mark Sadler took advantage of the gift. Within 60 seconds Scott Juniper put us ahead and what followed can only be described as a total collapse of discipline amongst the Rovers ranks as their players and management seemed to forget about the game and started a running battle with the Ref. Sadler netted again five minutes later to all but seal victory and, despite an injury time consolation from the visitors, it was the Dragons who progressed onto the Semi-Finals.
That win set up a Two-legged tie against Felixstowe Town, a side that had already won 4-0 at Broad Lane in the league and boasted a forward line that was regularly hitting the net at Essex & Suffolk Border League level. The First Leg ended in a narrow 0-1 defeat with Wivenhoe hitting the post on two occasions however the Second Leg turned out to be one of the most amazing matches EVER played at Broad Lane. Things started brightly for us as James Todd’s 3rd minute “dribbler” from the edge of the penalty area crept past a rather static visiting keeper (who made us suspect that Nike had branched out into making led filled deep sea diving boots!) to cancel out the 1st leg deficit. Felixstowe’s strikers then clicked into gear and fired in three well taken goals in a 14 minute spell to make it 1-4 on aggregate much to the delight of the overly vociferous visiting parents in the main stand (what is it about Youth football that suddenly turns mild mannered respectable middle aged parents and grandparents into glazed-eyed, foaming mouthed, nostril flaring maniacs). Two of these goals came in first half injury time (the length of which there appeared to be no apparent reason for) but thankfully the referee’s watch remained in a different time zone long enough for Todd to direct a soft hopeful header towards the visitors goal that even one of the large plastic dustbins around the ground would have stopped….unfortunately for Felixstowe it proved too hot to handle for their keeper who, as the ball trickled past him, demonstrated that rigor mortis is not exclusive to the dead !. 2-3 on the day at half time and 2-4 on aggregate.
During the course of the 1st half one of the visiting forwards seemed to suffer from a severe infection of the inner ear every time he got into our penalty area which obviously got on the Ref’s tits because when he was eventually chopped down in the box for real two minutes after the interval the official waved “play on” which, in hindsight, actually cost the visitors the game. Most of the early second half pressure came from Wivenhoe however from a 69th minute breakaway Felixstowe scored yet another well taken goal, 2-4 on the day and 2-5 on aggregate. Cue jubilant parents, much fist waving from the visitors bench and on field celebrations that any self respecting World Cup Winners would have been proud of. Todd was denied his hat trick by the crossbar as the young Dragons continued to apply the pressure before winning an 84th minute corner. Mark Sadler swung the ball into the box and, amidst the confusion, Dave Bastian fired home from close range, 3-4 on the day. Most of us watching regarded it as a well deserved consolation, but no…. 4 minutes later Matt Poll broke clear of the defence and scored with a low cross shot….4-4, but still a goal down on aggregate. Oh well, I concluded, at least we got a draw on the day but then, 2 minutes into injury time, Barry Wreford escaped down the left wing and delivered a cross that Peter Bird just about managed to connect with however the touch was enough to beat the Felixstowe keeper who, fatefully, decided to choose this particular moment to demonstrate that if he did not make it in football then he had a potential career standing in a Debenhams shop window wearing the latest fashion range….5-4 on the day, 5-5 on aggregate and Extra Time. The good folk of Felixstowe in the stand were stunned to say the least while their management hit gas mark ten having watched their lads lose their winning position.
By now “needle” was creeping into the match and several tackles from both sides were becoming increasingly questionable, however, the referee and linesman on our side of the pitch were proving to be pretty damn hopeless and one could sense something controversial coming up (and I didn’t mean the egg and bacon I had eaten for my breakfast either).
The first period of extra time began with Felixstowe hitting our post then in the 100th minute Dragons keeper Ian Ryder was beaten by a well executed lob from the edge of the box and all of a sudden it was party time for the Suffolk contingent again….cue parents, cue fist waving bench, cue disgusting carnal acts upon the goal scorer who by now was laying beneath a pile of writhing bodies probably wishing the ball had gone over the bar !!. 5-5 on the day, 5-6 on aggregate.
The young Dragons had not been able to keep up the pressure they had exerted on the visiting goal during the 2nd half and as extra time progressed they were once again staring defeat in the face. With just 4 minutes remaining Wivenhoe won a free kick 25 yards out. Bastian stepped up and curled the ball around the defensive wall and past the keeper who by now had clearly decided on his Debenhams shop window career….6-5 on the day, 6-6 on aggregate. Now I said earlier that you could sense something controversial coming up and it duly arrived a minute from time as a ball from the left eluded the entire visiting defence and found the unmarked Todd in a suspiciously looking offside position who wasted no time in firing it past the Debenhams shop window dummy into the back of the net. Felixstowe looked to the linesman who was only just catching up with play and wasn’t able to judge, Todd was on his way back towards the half way line with the entire Wivenhoe team in pursuit and our own little crew broke into a bout of glazed eyed, mouth foaming, nostril flaring maniacal celebrating. By now the Felixstowe camp were beginning to view the referee as something of a “Git” and deep into injury time, following an accidental collision, their trainer swept onto the pitch like some kind of avenging bald angel, ignored his prone player, pushed the referee, proceeded to tell him what a “gob shite” he was and was promptly sent off leaving our physio to treat their injured player !. At 1.28pm, two hours and 28 minutes after it had kicked off the most amazing game I have ever witnessed involving this club ended with Wivenhoe winning 7-5 on the day and 7-6 on aggregate.
After this, as we travelled over to Long Melford’s ground, I thought perhaps the Final itself against South West Section Runners-up Great Wakering Rovers would be an anti climax….how wrong I was. Wakering, who included future Millwall legend Neil Harris up front, had far the better of the first period and established a deserved two goal lead. During the interval manager Eric Johnstone gave the players a talking to on the grass outside the changing rooms in front of us fans, a move that at the time we all thought was inspirational that was until Eric later pointed out that the lights were buggered in our dressing room and no one could see naff all inside !. The 2nd half saw the Dragons produce some excellent attacking football which was rewarded when Danny Smith pulled a goal back from close range. With 9 minutes remaining Barry Wreford latched onto a through ball and beat the advancing keeper with a delightful chip to equalize. Then it got even better as in the 87th minute (which actually turned out to be 18 minutes from the final whistle including injury time !) Ed Weaver scored with a spectacular volley from a full 20 yards out to land the trophy.
It was the players from this particular season that first really made an impact on the senior side in any real numbers since the Under-18’s set up was formed with the likes of Leighton Bloss, Mark Fairbrother, Paul Taylor, Danny Smith, Barry Wreford, James Todd, Scott Juniper and Shane Townes all going on to play for the first team. Although Eric Johnstone finished the campaign as manager it was Phil Bloss who also should be credited with these players development having previously been in charge of the youth side before stepping up to the first team following the sacking of Chris Symes that season. From this point our youth system progressed to be one of the best in the area over the following few years as, under Martin Toole and Ken Ballard, many players such as Sean Caton, Kevin Hughes, Lee Race, Kieran Johnson and Tommy Noble (to name but a few) all went on to make an impact on the local Senior football scene.
One of the players from that cup winning squad, Jamie Holberton has kindly got in contact and provided us with a glimpse of his memories which will be available on the site latter part of this week. Many thanks Jamie.