Cottesmore AFC win the Beacon Hill League Cup after goalkeeper Alex Brown saves three penalties in the shoot-out
Goalkeeper Alex Brown saved three spot kicks as Cottesmore secured their first silverware of the season with a penalty shoot-out success in the Beacon Hill League Cup final on Saturday night.
Brown's brilliance ensured Cottesmore triumphed 3-1 in the shoot-out after they had shared the spoils in a 2-2 draw with Hathern in the final held over from last season at Barrow Town.
It was the first time since 1997 that Cottesmore had landed the league cup and manager Rich Giblin was thrilled to crown last season's cracking campaign with an early trophy to start the new term.
He said: "It was good to get over the line even if we did it in the most difficult way possible.
"It was never going to be massively one-sided with it being a cup final which are always close games.
"Hathern were a decent outfit, but we went into the game confident that we could get a result.
"We did a lot last season and this was our opportunity to show that we had managed to put a successful year together.
"It was proof of what we achieved last season."
Cottesmore, backed by a strong travelling support, got off to a dream start when Colton Cropper cracked home the opening goal to give them an early advantage after just four minutes.
However, Giblin admitted his side then took their foot off the gas after their early opener and Liam Walton got Hathern back on level terms on the half-hour mark.
Walton then put Hathern in front five minutes later and they came close to increasing their advantage after hitting the crossbar.
Cottesmore did have a strong penalty appeal turned down in the first half when Tom Atkins was upended with the ball falling invitingly to Darren Wilke who fired wide.
They then regained the initiative in the contest though after the break and went on to control large parts of the second period.
The injection of fresh legs in new signings Danny Barker and Jack Baker plus Harry Sabberton off the bench added extra impetus to the Cottesmore attack.
Barker was a constant thorn in Hathern's side and forced a succession of fouls to help Cottesmore pile on the pressure.
Tom Pope brought a superb save out of the Hathern goalkeeper before the inevitable equaliser arrived when the ball fell kindly for Harry Stannard on the penalty spot and he calmly rolled a shot into the bottom corner of the goal.
Cottesmore looked the likeliest of the two sides to find a winner in the latter stages but Hathern held out to send the tie into a shoot-out.
Stannard, Jordan Smith and Pope were all successful from the spot with Brown saving two of Hathern's three penalties.
Tom Bendle then missed the chance to seal the success with Cottesmore's fourth penalty, but Brown completed his hat-trick of stops to ensure the cup would be heading back to Westray Park.
Cottesmore had triumphed on penalties in their quarter-final clash last season with then-goalkeeper Jonny Hotson also saving three spot kicks and he was in attendance on Saturday night to cheer on his team-mates.
Giblin added: "We didn't play well in the first 45 minutes and conceded a couple of sloppy goals which we were with disappointed with.
"You get those sort of panicky moments in a cup final though which Hathern benefited from. They were the better side for the first half after we had scored.
"We said to the lads at half-time that we had nothing to lose and we absolutely dominated the second half.
"Our substitutions then helped to turn the screw a little bit more and we were always felt the second goal was coming.
"We would probably have gone on to win it in normal time if we had an extra five minutes because we kept knocking at their door and were having a lot of possession.
"We do seem to do well at penalty shoot-outs though and Alex Brown was fantastic in goal to win it for us.
"We were all really pleased and, given what we did last season, we deserved something.
"It was a good day for the club and I was really pleased for all the lads involved. It was nice to have Jonny there with us and everyone who came to support. A lot of people came out and gave their Saturday evening up to come and watch us.
"I'm just glad we managed to get the result. It was a nice way to finish last season and start this season.
"We can now put last season to bed and look forward to what we're going to do this season."
Cottesmore start their Leicestershire League Premier Division campaign on Saturday with a home clash against Desford at Westray Park.
The Rutland side were in second spot in the table last term when the coronavirus pandemic curtailed their season and Giblin is predicting some tough challenges ahead.
He commented: "It will be a difficult year because teams around us have strengthened, but we want to get off to a good start.
"We know that Desford have strengthened and they won't be the side of last season so we will be taking it very seriously and trying to put a marker down."
Cottesmore's Development side will be playing in the regionalised Division Two North and East of the Leicestershire Senior League this season.
They start their campaign next Tuesday night (August 15) when they host village neighbours 2nd Royal Anglian Regiment who are based at the Kendrew Barracks in Cottesmore.
The Development side completed their pre-season programme at the weekend with an excellent 2-0 win away at Bingham Reserves.
Giblin continued: "The Development side look really good this season. Nick Buff has got them really well drilled.
"They are scoring goals which is one of the things they struggled with last season so they've got a completely different outlook for this year.
"They have got some lads who are already pushing for the first team so having that link across the club is useful."