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Shots lift county cup

Aldershot Town claimed the Hampshire Senior Cup for the third time in four years after a thrilling 3-1 victory over Havant & Waterlooville at St Mary's Stadium, Southampton, last Wednesday.

STAFFORD Browne became the first player ever to score a hat-trick at the new St Mary's Stadium to give Aldershot Town fans another night to remember.

With his team fighting back from a goal behind, Browne helped his side secure the Hampshire Senior Cup for the third time in four years, with a stunning second half treble, which prompted wild celebrations going on well into the night.

Browne was naturally the toast of Aldershot with his predatory finishing, but everyone in a red and blue shirt more than played their part in a memorable performance.

The Shots were quite simply awesome after the break — reacting to a stern half time roasting by boss Terry Brown following a rather lack-lustre opening period.

But from the moment Stafford headed home the equaliser five minutes into the second half, there only looked to be one winner, with the shell-shocked Havant & Waterlooville fans suddenly drowned out by their counterparts at the opposite end of the ground, who were obviously smelling the sweet scent of victory.

Browne, supported by storming performances from the likes of Grant Payne and Mark Bentley, then shot the Hawks down with strikes on 69 and 90 minutes to send his loyal supporters into raptures.

The Premiership's newest stadium on the outskirts of Southampton City Centre, was the perfect setting for such a memorable night — one, quite rightly, lapped up by the sea of red and blue, who were certainly making the most of it.

The masses brought the pre-match party down the M3 with flags and scarves draped from car windows and car horns blowing to signal to locals, the start of the Aldershot invasion.

Expectations were high but, in reality, this was a tough test, on paper, the most difficult final of the three so far. It also represented a titanic Ryman League v Doc Martens League showdown with both teams finishing third in their respective premier divisions.

Terry Brown, for one, was well aware of the task that awaited, and set about his plans having had the Hawks watched twice in recent weeks.

Brown surprised everyone by reverting to a 3-5-2 formation with Lee Holsgrove filling in the position on the left hand side of the back three and Dave Carroll pulling the strings from the centre. The one to make way was flying winger Chris Allen, who took his place on the bench, while there was no place in the squad for Leon Townley or Scott Forrester who watched from the stands.

Interestingly, Paul Harford was also left out and didn't even attend.

The Shots started a little tentatively, maybe needing time to settle into their new roles and it was Havant & Waterlooville who took the early initiative. Former Shot Neil Champion was combative in midfield, while the dangerous front two of Jamie O'Rourke and James Taylor, required close watch.

But when the southerners did open the scoring, through Shaun Gale's 25-yard free kick, it was more through luck than judgement.

When the ball curling round the wall towards the open arms of Gareth Howells, you would have put your house on him collecting comfortably. Somehow though, it slipped out of his hands, went through his legs and trickled agonisingly over the line.

The Aldershot response was hardly staggering and Havant remained in control. Howells made up for his error with a super save to deny Taylor's point-blank header, while Bentley, who scored a hat-trick himself in the final of two years ago, missed a golden opportunity to restore parity before the break.

But while fans expected Brown to revert back to the tried and tested 4-4-2 with Allen making an early appearance, the boss demonstrated his firm approach in the changing rooms and a different Aldershot emerged from the tunnel for the second half. Within five minutes they were level and there was only one team in it from there on in.

Brown didn't need to make the change by this stage and, despite making the odd foray to his technical area, he could sit and enjoy his side playing the best football under his leadership, and possibly for the entire season.

A little under 20 minutes later, the Shots edged in front to the roar of their supporters behind the goal with Browne's name once again the one to flash gleefully on the big screen.

Richard Gell and then Allen did come on to add fresh legs for the last few minutes but by then the work had been all but done with Havant looking desperate.

Browne wasn't to be denied a brilliant hat-trick with the goal of the game three minutes into injury time and the party had started once again.

To play so well on such an occasion, and to clinch a victory, which, at times, looked unlikely, made Wednesday night an unforgettable experience — one unrivalled by any other in the club's short but sweet 10-year history.

Brown has every reason to be proud of his men, who gave him everything they had. Whether or not it's enough to survive the expected summer shake-up, well that remains to be seen.

l A video of the Hampshire Senior Cup final experience will be available from the club offices shortly, as will a ‘Shots and Goals' compilation, showing all 59 goals to have gone in at the Rec this season.

l Wednesday was also a night to remember for the youth team, who secured the Southern Youth League with a 3-1 win over Ashford Town.

To add to their own Hampshire Cup success, the boys are now going for a remarkable treble by winning the Southern Youth League Cup against Banstead at Sutton United FC on Thursday night.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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