Asfordby FC Development reached a cup final in their debut season thanks to a late winner from long-time club servant Lewis Sharp.
The Division Three side edged out Division Two outfit Shepshed Amateurs 2-1 in last Thursday’s semi-final at Ashby Ivanhoe FC to book their place in the Bonser Cup final.
The tie looked to be heading to penalties when up popped Sharp, an apt match-winner who is in his 13th consecutive season with the club.
Manager Simon Atherley said: “Lewis has played for Asfordby since he was six and that’s only the third goal I can remember him scoring!
“It would be great to win the cup, and obviously we have an outside chance at the league, but actually the success story has already been written; it’s that a lad came to Asfordby to play football 13 years ago and in his first season of adult football scores a goal that puts his team into a cup final.
“That should inspire others to come here and do what Lewis has done.
“I am so pleased and proud of the lads. We play eight under 19 players every week; we haven’t used a single first team player to help us.”
The Asfordby team, launched this season alongside the first team, went into the game unbeaten in the league, but wary of their higher division opponents.
Asfordby crated an opening within a minute of kick-off when excellent work from Richards saw the ball break to Atherley, but last-ditch defending denied him.
Shepshed settled into the game quicker, with a well-rehearsed game plan to hit Asfordby on the break, and after 20 minutes Amateurs went ahead when a headed clearance was volleyed back into the net, leaving keeper Barrett-Clarke helpless.
The goal spurred Asfordby into life, with De’Ath and Cochrane dominating midfield, Atherley providing an effective outlet on the left, and Watson tormenting on the right.
Shepshed had identified the speed of Atherley and Richards and defended much deeper in the second half, allowing Asfordby to pile on the pressure, forcing a series of 11 corners and four saves.
A moment of magic brought them level when De’Ath curled a 40-yard pass inside the full-back to Atherley whose first time cross found Felstead’s run to tap in.
Both sides upped the tempo in the last 10 minutes, with Cochrane crashing a 25-yard shot against the bar and skipper Felstead forcing a brilliant save.
Both teams looked tired heading into extra time, and Asfordby were forced to change centre-back Herbert, who with Wesson had done well to shut out Shepshed’s dangerous striker Earp.
And with just three minutes left before penalties, Cochrane’s excellent pas down the right set Asfordby away.
Watson played the perfect through ball to Sharp who took one touch before lashing the ball into the far corner.
Josh Richards almost added a third with the last kick of the game as Asfordby marched into the final where they will play either Wymeswold Reserves of Greenhill on Thursday, April 19.
Asfordby: Barrett-Clark, Sharp, Wesson, Herbert, Simpson, R. De’Ath, Cochrane, Watson, Felstead, Atherley, C Richards, T. De’Ath, J Richards, Shelley,
* Felstead’s double gave a leggy Asfordby Development side a 2-1 home win over Quorn Rangers on Saturday to close within five points of leaders Wymeswold.