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Players, management, coaches and staff celebrate the SCEFL Challenge Cup final win.

Dockers Delight! Erith Town win the SCEFL Challenge Cup!

Adele released her Grammy award winning album, 21, in 2011. That same year, The King’s Speech starring Colin Firth won Best Picture, and the planet Neptune completed its first orbit since 1846. It was also the last time The Dockers had silverware in their hands – and it’s been a long wait since that 3-1 win over Tunbridge Wells in the Kent Senior Trophy Final – but on Good Friday of the 2023/24 season, the 13-year wait was finally over.

SCEFL Challenge Cup trophy lift celebrations

After a successful season to date in the league, Adam Woodward’s men had made it to the SCEFL Challenge Cup Final to lock horns with Corinthian FC, a team who had beaten them home and away in the SCEFL Premier Division already this season.  In both of those fixtures including that infamous 4-3 home defeat when The Dockers were 3-0 up with 23 minutes left to play and Corinthian came from behind to secure the three points, so nothing could be taken for granted by the team based in SE28.

Last year’s winners, Hollands & Blair FC, provided a neutral venue for the fixture at their Star Meadow ground, and at the early kick-off time of 1:00PM the nearly 500 fans in attendance cheered through the wind and the rain as the two SCEFL play-off chasing teams took to the field to try and take the prestigious Challenge Cup back home to their fans. The early play was cagey from both teams and near gale force winds caused havoc with any ball that was attempted over shoulder height, but the defences of both Erith Town and Corinthian held strong and were near impossible to break down.

The opening goal came in the 30th minute from an uncharacteristic moment of confusion between Dockers’ goalkeeper, Mackenzie Foley, and defender Jerome Jayaguru. A goal kick played hard and low fizzed up at JJ but it bounced awkwardly off his knee as he tried to control it, and Corinthian attacker Michael Hagan reacted quickest to the loose ball, pushing it forward and running one-on-one with the keeper to slot a low shot into the back of the Erith Town net. Up to that point, Erith Town had arguably dominated the proceedings, so the disappointment of conceding such a sloppy goal was palpable as the teams went in at half time.

After the break, the wind died down, the sun decided to put in an appearance, and Corinthian did everything they could to keep Erith Town out of their half. With the weather no longer being a factor, their long-ball defence was working well and the final looked like it was going their way. Then, very late in the game, Harry Taylor was fouled just outside of the Corinthian area, and while most people were yelling for the free kick, the referee to his credit, played on, and a moment later, chasing the loose ball, Jake Lovell was brought down unceremoniously in the penalty box and the referee rightly pointed to the spot. Up stepped James Dyer, a player who has been so impressive this season and a talisman for the Bayliss Avenue outfit for the majority of the campaign, and showed why he is the man for the big occasion by coolly burying the ball into the back of the net.

James Dyer wheels away in celebration after putting away his spot kick.

Full time and a penalty shoot-out beckoned.

The lottery of penalties can make heroes at any club and redeeming himself from the earlier error, Mackenzie Foley stepped up to take the first spot kick, dispatching it perfectly into the bottom corner. They pulled one back, but James Dyer slotted his second of the day past the Corinthian keeper who, it has to be said, got a hand to both penalties but couldn’t keep them out. It was a warning. Corinthian pulled another back and next up for The Dockers’ was Harry Taylor. His shot was weak and to the keepers right and was saved easily, but while Corinthian fans and players were celebrating the mistake, the Linesman’s flag was up, their keeper had strayed too far off his line before the kick was taken, Harry Taylor, walking away dejected, suddenly had a reprieve and could take his kick again. Second time round he made no mistake, drilling his shot low and hard into the bottom corner, and while the keeper guessed right and went to his left the power in the shot meant he could do nothing about it.

Mackenzie Foley makes the vital penalty save in the SCEFL Challenge Cup Final

3-2 up and with all that spot-kick drama ratcheting up the tension, Corinthian came forward for their third but Foley again showed his mettle, stretching low and to his left to save brilliantly, keeping out the third Corinthian penalty. George Goodwin was up next and hit an unstoppable penalty into the top corner, calm as you like, and after Corinthian despatched their 3rd it was left to the Erith Town midfield maestro, James Miles, to win the cup for the club with the fifth and decisive spot kick. The Dockers’ No.8, who had missed a penalty in the FA Vase quarter final shoot-out defeat to Hilltop, showed class and maturity by coolly hitting it to the right of the Corinthian ‘keeper to win the shoot-out and secure Erith Town their first trophy for over a decade.

The roar from The Dockers’ support was loud and proud, and the celebrations of the players, staff, volunteers, fans and junior players at the club went on for hours afterwards. It was a celebration that has been a long time coming and ensured Erith Town have a well deserved trophy to add to their list of honours.