FOOTBALL: Manager Stuart Marshall dedicated Thurrock’s Essex Pelly Under 18s Cup victory to the club’s volunteers, in particular Secretary Mick Keeble, after watching his side retain the trophy with a 1-0 win over Brentwood Town.

“The Chairman and the Manager have just eluded in the changing room to a lot of disappointment on Saturday, with the First Team missing out on the play-offs and tonight, hopefully, has brought a bit of a smile back to Thurrock Football Club,” he declared following the hard-fought success. “That was our aim; we wanted to bring the Pelly Cup back home. We’ve done it. I’m pleased for Mick Keeble, the Secretary.”

“He does so much work behind the scenes for the youth section and, for him, it’s all about nights like tonight. It makes it worthwhile for him. It’s not about me, it’s not about Steve [Gleed, the Assistant Manager], it’s about the boys and, I think, it’s about Mick Keeble. I take no credit for tonight; the boys were fantastic and I’m delighted for everybody connected to Thurrock Football Club that we’ve got another County Cup.”

Thurrock were made to work for their eventual triumph, which secured a third Pelly Cup crown in six seasons, as Brentwood began the game on the front foot. Jay Lantieri’s hoisted cross-cum-shot bounced back off the crossbar in just the 2nd minute and Bobby Deemer nodded the follow-up over from close range, with Jamie Hansen enhancing the Sky Blues’ early pressure by heading Charlie Portway’s cross narrowly off-target.

Fleet threatened for the first time in the 14th minute when Alex Hyslop’s 25-yard free kick was brilliantly tipped over by Sam Cole in the Brentwood goal, but the custodian was powerless to avert the only goal of the game shortly after the mid-point in the first half. Jordan Clark was the goalscorer, making an impressive run to create space for himself before slotting a precise finish into the net from Matthew Ashwell’s right-wing cross.

“I didn’t think there was anything between the two sides,” opined Marshall. “It was quite a tight game, and we spent a lot of it under the cosh, but we defended resolutely.

It was a great goal by Jordan Clark in the first half, although we didn’t look like scoring other than that; that was probably the only chance of the whole game on target, but the lads worked their socks off.”

Clark could have doubled his personal tally, and his team’s advantage, just before the half-hour mark when he was put clear by Arthur Rogers but he fired over. From that moment, it was Brentwood who created the majority of the chances including a Jake Webster corner which Tommy Oliver couldn’t convert at the back post.

Thurrock did exert a level of control on proceedings either side of the half time interval, although they came under increasing pressure again as the match approached the hour mark.

Brentwood substitute Joe Houlihan’s bullet header from an Andy Freeman centre on 57 minutes was directed the wrong side of the right-hand post, and the replacement was thwarted by Aaron Lynes in the Fleet goal after being picked out by Greg Larkin seconds later.

A third opportunity inside four minutes for Town fell to Freeman when Portway’s dead ball was defected into his path, but a looping header was pushed over by the backpedalling Lynes. As much as Brentwood continued to probe, they found themselves denied by a solid and organised defensive unit, and their final chance to take the match into extra time fell soon after the regulation 90 minutes were up when Oliver powered a header over from Portway’s corner.

“I’m happy and relieved,” remarked Marshall after the third consecutive Pelly Cup final between the clubs. “I don’t think there was anything between the two sides, and I don’t remember either goalkeeper making many saves. It was a tight game, and it could’ve gone either way. No side deserved it more than the other; it was tight, fair and one side has to win and one has to lose.”

“This is my third Pelly Cup - I’ve won two and lost one - and this is my last game with the Under 18s. I can now concentrate on doing the Reserves next season, and Terry Epstein, who is taking over the Under 18s, has got some good players to choose from. For us, now, we can enjoy the summer break, come back in pre-season and we go again. It would be lovely if we could win this competition three years on the trot,” he added, before paying tribute to Thurrock’s opponents.

“Congratulations to Brentwood. They’ve had a great season and this is their second or third cup final. They’re a good side and I’d like to congratulate them on their season and I wish their players all the best next year, wherever they are. For us, we’re going to enjoy tonight, enjoy our Presentation Night on May 10th - it’ll be nice to have a bit of silverware on the table - and then we get ready for next season.”

Brentwood Town: Sam Cole, Connor Hogan, Jake Webster, Tommy Oliver, George Pratt, Jamie Wright-Troppy, Charlie Portway, Jay Lantieri, Bobby Deemer, Andy Freeman, Jamie Hansen. Substitutes (repeated): Elliot O’Connor, Greg Larkin, Jack Bowyer, Joe Houlihan, Gavin Singh.

Thurrock: Aaron Lynes, PJ O’Fallen, Matthew Ashwell, Ross Gleed, Shaun Warren, Alex Hyslop, Arthur Rogers, Connor Martin, Daniel Gammaldi, Jordan Clark, Lewis Clark. Substitutes (repeated): Ben Vanlint, Barry Vanlint, Cain Brougham, Niall Hung, Brandon Stack.