Boss Brian Davey lavished praise on hero Weston Marau after the shot-stopper inspired Knaresborough Town to a dramatic NCEL League Cup success - despite forgetting his gloves for the historic final.
The goalkeeper was forced to borrow reserve ‘keeper Tom Osbourne’s gloves, but he made up for the error by clinching the man of the match award at Bradford City’s Valley Parade.
With the replacement pair, forgetful Marau made a string of spectacular saves during Town’s 2-2 draw with Eccleshill United as the sides could not be separated in normal time and two extra periods.
Another giant leap from the man between the sticks gave Boro the advantage in the shoot-out before Byron Littlefair coolly slotted home the winning penalty as Knaresborough won it 4-2 (report on page 94).
“We weren’t happy with Weston before the game. Playing the biggest game of your life and not having your gloves with you, for a goalkeeper,” joked Davey.
“But he was fantastic. We always say, if he had an extra six inches of height, he would be an international goalkeeper.”
Colin Heath had earlier rescued a draw for Town with a goal straight after half-time of normal time, after firstly putting them in front with a smart finish on nine minutes.
Dave Thomas’ shoot-out miss had given United a brief hope until the Bradford side’s striker Charlie Flaherty lashed well wide with the sixth kick.
Seb Carole, Danny Wright, Jim Bradley and Littlefair scored from 12 yards for Boro.
Davey added: “It doesn’t matter what level of football, when you are in a penalty shoot-out it is very nervous.
“It’s only the goalkeeper that isn’t nervous because he has nothing to lose and can become a hero, everyone else is frightened to death.
“But we kept our calm.”
The cup triumph was Knaresborough’s first since they stepped into semi-professional football at the start of last season.
And Davey said the success rivalled past triumphs when he guided the club to the West Yorkshire League title and to a County Cup trophy.
He said: “It’s fantastic. I have known a lot of these players for a lot of years. To keep having faith in them, they have proven it’s right.
“Winning the West Yorkshire League was massive, for the first time in our history. Then winning the County Cup for the first time.
“This is the first bit of silverware we have had at this standard. All at the club know now that we have to take this forward and get promotion in the Premier next year.”
Town also advanced to the Whitworth Cup final last night, beating Ripon City 3-2 AET at Harrogate Railway’s Station View.
Carole and Heath scored in normal time but City twice pegged Knaresborough back.
Blaine Hobson’s fine extra time strike earned the victory for Davey’s side.
The Harrogate & District FA competition could give the first team a famous double, and the club’s reserves could make it treble glory with their impending promotion to West Yorkshire Premier.
A victory in the second-string’s final match of the season at home to Wyke Wanderers on May 17 would cement a rise into the top tier.
Davey said the club must carry this season’s momentum into the next campaign.
He outlined plans to strengthen the first team squad with at least three new faces, and the club are also launching an academy side.
Davey added: “It’s been a long season. We are used to having 30 games, this must have been nearly our 50th game.
“We have a small squad and the hardest thing is keeping everybody happy. But that has kept everyone together.”