Daniels delight for Stones after Clarke’s late cup clincher
Blackstones lifted the Daniels Cup for the second time in three seasons with a 2-1 victory over Cottesmore Amateurs at the Zeeco Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Joint player-boss Lee Clarke netted the winning goal for the United Counties League Division One side with just five minutes remaining.
Cottesmore had got themselves back on level terms just five minutes earlier when Jaede Timms headed home to cancel out Rikki Wilmer’s first half opener for Stones.
Stones had been the better side in the opening period, but struggled to find a way past an inspired Nathan Clare in the Cottesmore goal.
Clare produced a cracking early save to deny the lively Jones De Sousa before flinging himself to his left to turn away a goalbound header from Clarke.
Clarke then saw another decent strike deflected over before a superb last-ditch tackle from Luke Smith denied Stones a clear passage to goal.
The deadlock was eventually broken when Cottesmore failed to clear a Stones corner and, despite valiant blocks from Clare and Wilson Iron, the ball fell for Wilmer to stab home from close range.
Clare again excelled to deny Matt Carter at point-blank range before producing another smart stop to keep out a well-struck shot from Jake Pell to ensure the Leicestershire Senior League side were still in the game at the interval.
Cottesmore came more into the contest after the break with an early effort from Tom Pope testing Stones goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs.
The Stamford side then suffered a setback when dangerman De Sousa was forced off injured after colliding with Clare.
A forceful run and shot from Stones’ impressive youngster Harry Peasgood again brought Clare into action before Cottesmore equalised with 10 minutes remaining.
Timms rose highest to meet a centre from the right to head home an excellent finish past Bellairs.
The momentum now looked to be with the Rutland side as Stones had played 24 hours earlier in a 7-1 away league defeat at Lutterworth Town.
But Stones roused themselves one last time and a sublime pass from Ben Porter picked out substitute Hugo Elwood whose centre was converted with clinical precision by Clarke to ensure he and Daniel French’s first season at the helm ended with some silverware.
Blackstones: Bellairs, Bates, Wilmer, Pell, Simpson, Jelleyman, Porter, Peasgood, De Sousa (Edmondson), Clarke, Carter (Elwood). Not used: Crockett.
Cottesmore: Clare, Iron (Warman), Cropper, North, Caley, L Smith, J Smith, Seals (Archer-Fern), Pope, Timms, Fontoura. Not used: Richards, Challis.
The other finals of the Daniels Cup competition saw Deeping Rangers win the Under 18s crown after a 5-0 win over Stamford while the Daniels were also edged out in the Under 16s showpiece after a 1-0 loss to Blackstones.