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Thurston provide perfect send-off for manager Martin McConnell by lifting Suffolk Junior Cup at Portman Road after victory over Woolverstone United





Thurston’s players gave departing manager Martin McConnell the perfect send-off as they defeated Woolverstone United 3-1 in the Parkers Pitches Suffolk Junior Cup Final to complete a league and cup double at Ipswch Town’s Portman Road.

After a flurry of first-half chances, included a saved Andrew Wood penalty and two efforts coming back off the crossbar, it was midfielder Kaine Fryer who finally broke the deadlock for the village side from near Bury St Edmunds, by firing a loose ball at a corner in the 43rd minute.

Woolverstone pulled one back, also from a corner, early in the second period via a Lewis Wilding header but Thurston regained the lead 11 minutes later through Brandon Salisbury’s sliding finish.

Thurston celebrate after being presented with the Suffolk Junior Cup after a 3-1 victory against Woolverstone United at Ipswich Town's Portman Road Picture: Paul Voller
Thurston celebrate after being presented with the Suffolk Junior Cup after a 3-1 victory against Woolverstone United at Ipswich Town's Portman Road Picture: Paul Voller

And the Bluesocks’ dominance was rewarded with a third goal in the 79th minute when Paul Dennington, who went on to make some fine late saves, managed to somehow fumble substitute Harry French’s corner over his line.

Dan Stobbart also played his part at the other end with a few eye-catching saves as Thurston went on to lift the Suffolk Junior Cup for the first time in their history, having lost out in the final in 1963/64 and 1997/98.

The first of three county showpieces at new Premier League ground Portman Road saw two Marcron Suffolk & Ipswich League Division One sides go head to head for the silverware.

But a Thurston side with a number of higher-league experienced players went into the match as clear favourites, having won the division by 15 points – to reach the Senior Division for the first time in their history – and ended up 37 points clear of eighth-placed Woolverstone.

They had also beaten the Shotely Peninsula-based outfit twice, both strangely also ending in a 3-1 scoreline.

Thurston, who had completed back-to-back promotions without tasting a defeat under boss Martin ‘Macca’ McConnell,went close to taking the lead inside the opening minute. Former Bury Town, Thetford Town, Walsham-le-Willows and Mildenhall Town Wood was put through running onto a long goal kick, and after he exchanged passes into the area with strike partner Salisbury, his stabbed effort was saved by Dennington.

A few minutes later Woolverstone caused some concern for the Thurston supporters as keeper Dan Stobbart race out of his area to a George Sykes throughball which Hayden Catchpole knocked past him but Lawrence was on hand to clear the danger.

Woolverstone United goalkeeper Paul Dennington gets down low to his left to save Andrew Wood's 16th-minute penalty in the Suffolk Junior Cup Final Picture: Paul Voller
Woolverstone United goalkeeper Paul Dennington gets down low to his left to save Andrew Wood's 16th-minute penalty in the Suffolk Junior Cup Final Picture: Paul Voller

Thurston were spraying the ball about well and a throughball found Wood who chipped nicely over the advancing Dennington but watched as it dropped several yards wide of the far post.

The Division One champions were awarded a penalty on the quarter-of-an-hour mark when stand-in skipper Wilding blocked Luke Austin’s shot with an outstreched arm after Woolverstone had been caught in possession on the edge of their box.

However, from Wood’s spot-kick Dennington got down low to his left to make the save before they managed to get the loose ball clear.

Brandon Salisbury stretches to guide the ball home for Thurston's second goal past Woolverstone United goalkeeper Paul Dennington in the Suffolk Junior Cup Final Picture: Paul Voller
Brandon Salisbury stretches to guide the ball home for Thurston's second goal past Woolverstone United goalkeeper Paul Dennington in the Suffolk Junior Cup Final Picture: Paul Voller

Thurston continued to lay siege to their opponents’ goalmouth and were denied by the crossbar twice as well as from another good save inside a minute from the midway point of the half.

First, Salisbury’s close-range lunged effort from a Wood flick-on crashed back off the woodwork before Charlie Cook went on to see his curling effort from the edge of the box turned over the bar by a flying Dennington.

From the resultant corner it was his goalframe which saved him again though as Lawrence sent in a firm header.

Woolverstone began to see a bit more of the ball and Sykes twice tested the keeper from out on the left but Dan Stobbart comfortably fielded both.

Up the other end Cook hit a rising shot over from the edge of the box while Luke Austin’s close-range volley was deflected away.

Woolverstone United's skipper Lewis Wilding heads home from close range to equalise in the 48th minute against Thurston in the Suffolk Junior Cup Final Picture: Paul Voller
Woolverstone United's skipper Lewis Wilding heads home from close range to equalise in the 48th minute against Thurston in the Suffolk Junior Cup Final Picture: Paul Voller

It was from the subsequent corner that Thurston finally found their breakthrough as Wood’s initial shot was blocked before spinning loose with Fryer able to slam the loose ball in at the left-hand post.

The slender advantage going into the break was the least that the Bluesocks had deserved for their efforts.

Some neat football at the start of the second half saw Woolverstone work a two-on-two breakaway but Lawrence made a good lunging block in the area to deny Jordan Harward from Catchpole’s throughball.

It was from the corner, the same side from which Thurston scored their opener, that Woolverstone found their equaliser in the 48th minute.

Declan Lee’s delivery to the far post was headed back across goal by Justin Davies and Wilding nodded it over from close-range.

Thurston responded well though with Wood heading straight at the keeper before Salisbury struck the outside of the right-hand post sliding onto Cook’s left-wing cross during a heavy shower.

But the striker was not to be denied a few minutes later as his side regained the lead just before the hour mark when Wood played the ball across the area and Salisbury slid it beyond the on-rushing Dennington.

Looking to quickly draw level again, Catchpole sent a free kick from a dangerous position straight into the hands of Dan Stobbart in what had become a rare foray forward.

But they went close with 15 minutes to go when substitute Daniel Knights sent in a curling effort which drew a good save from Dan Stobbart.

Thurston’s pressure up the other end eventually told though with a third goal arriving in bizarre circumstances in the 79th minute.

Substitute French’s right-wing corner saw Dennington try to claim it at his near post but only manage to fumble it over the line amid a sea of bodies to the surprise of the Thurston players.

Fellow substitute Will Stobbart saw an effort turned behind before Wood continued to be frustrated in his quest for a 20th goal of the campaign, heading over from the resultant corner from under the crossbar.

In the final few regulation minutes Dennington made a fine double save to deny Thurston a fourth, clawing out substitute Ryan Jolly’s header before springing up to keep out French’s follow-up shot.

In the fourth of six minutes of additional time he came up with another fine intervention, rushing out of his area to take the ball off the feet of French who along with Jolly had broke clear in a two-on-one before Wilding was back to execute a sliding clearance.

French saw a late corner rebound out off the near post as Thurston looked to add some icing on the cake but the celebrations of a magical campaign, and a last with McConnell at the helm, soon unfolded in front of their large following.

Woolverstone: Dennington, Harward, Lee (Knill 83’), Thrower (Crawford 71’), Harbut, Wilding, Sykes (Knights 71’), Gibson (Salttery 83’), Catchpole, Davies (Gordon 58’), Lawrence.

Booked: None.

Thurston: D Stobbart, Stone (Gamble 88’), Barclay, Lawrence, Kemp, Foster (W Stobbart 83’), Austin (Steed 64’), Cook (French 58’), Salisbury (Jolly 76’), Wood, Fryer.

Booked: None.

Referee: Andrew Eely.

Attendance: 697

SuffolkNews Man of the Match: Kaine Fryer (Thurston). Ran the midfielder from start to finish with his classy touches and vision as well as providing the crucial first-half breakthrough.