WIFC 2 West Ham 2 – West Ham win 7-6 on penalties

WIFC suffered the heartache of a penalty shootout defeat in the IFA London Cup Final last Saturday. Following a stirring comeback from two goals down by the Internet ‘Orns, the lottery of penalties was the only way to separate the teams after a riveting final, played at a neutral venue in Harlow.

WIFC line up before the London Cup Final

A crowd that numbered as many as seventy spectators lined the pitch and with both managers picking their strongest sides, the stage was set for a final that delivered on pre-match predictions of a competitive game between clubs who are great friends off the pitch.

In uncharacteristic fashion West Ham started slowly. WIFC seemed to settle more quickly, having the lions’ share of early possession. It was a real cup final, where edginess, and nerves seemed to get the better over both teams undoubted quality. However, as both teams settled down, their collective touch improved, and they stared to play the sort of football that got them to the final on the back of 100% records in the group stages of the tournament.

Jeremy Hinds organises the WIFC rearguard during the first half

Both teams were also looking dangerous on the break, but it was the East London side that struck first. The goal had been coming for a while when the deadlock was broken on the half hour. A free kick was floated into the back post, and Luke Gray headed across the goal for Mark Blackburn to tap in from close range.

To WIFC’s credit their reply was almost instant. In the next five minutes they surged forward, and thought themselves unfortunate not to win a penalty when Chris Dew went down in the box. But the rally was brief, and West Ham finished the half in the ascendancy when captain Will Bush despatched a penalty after a handball by Stuart Holdham to double their advantage.

Skipper Chris Dundon led by example all morning

After a tactical switch to 4-4-2 and some rousing words from joint manager Chris Davis and captain Chris Dundon, WIFC started the half well. Despite this, they could have been three down when another penalty appeal was turned down. This proved to be the turning point and WIFC dominated the next 20 minutes. Having already seen a sighter crash off the crossbar minutes earlier, it was full back Leigh Harrington who halved the arrears when he sweetly curled a second free kick into the back of the net.

Leigh Harrington's sighter thuds against the West Ham crossbar

WIFC sensed blood. Using their height advantage Watford peppered the West Ham area with long throws, and one of these paid off when the ball was half cleared to Frank Smith, whose shot was deflected into the path of Dave Soloway, and the striker poked the loose ball home to bring the game level.

Scorer of the equaliser, Dave Soloway, battles for posession

West Ham came back at WIFC as legs tired and both teams had a great chance each to win it. The Hammers had a goal disallowed when two players broke through and the first inexplicably passed the ball to his offside colleague rather than finish himself. Then Rob Sterry had a header superbly saved at point blank range by John Coates, when it seemed the pint sized striker was certain to score.

In a picture that sums up the spirit of the day, keepers Jeremy Hinds and John Coates share a laugh before the shoot-out

And so the tie went to penalties, as is tradition in IFA Cup ties there is no extra-time played. With both teams lined up on the half way line, West Ham’s Terry Hayes and WIFC’s Maurice Clarke missed to take things to sudden death. At 6 all, Graham Stafford’s kick cannoned off the legs of WIFC goalkeeper Jeremy Hinds and into the back of the net. Paul Whittenbury of Watford then strode forward and his well struck kick thudded into the woodwork. There were tears of joy and sadness from both teams, while Whittenbury was consoled by West Ham and WIFC players alike, as well as his girlfriend and family.

Tension etched on faces as WIFC watch the shootout unfold

After the presentation, West Ham manager Vinnie White was quick to praise the WIFC side. “I’d like to congratulate WIFC on giving us one tough match.. We knew it would be that way and so it proved. I’m delighted to win the cup today, and equally delighted to see the reaction of both teams, as it proves the strength of the relationship we have. Even with a trophy on the line, everybody’s attitude was first class. This may have been the first London Cup final, but I have a feeling it won’t be the last time we meet in the final”

WIFC joint managers Dave Messenger & Chris Davis echoed the sentiment. “That was the best IFA game I’ve ever been involved in” said Messenger. “Our players can be so proud of their comeback”. Davis added “we were a wonder save away from nicking it, and to take a side as good as West Ham that close does us immense credit. That said, if we had to lose, I can’t think of a better group of lads to lose to. Their players were first class after the last penalty and we don’t begrudge them their success for a second”

WIFC. Jeremy Hinds; Rob Stone, Chris Dundon (C), Stuart Nicholls, Leigh Harrington; Joel Moody, Stuart Holdham, Frank Smith, James Hannaford; Rob Sterry; Chris Dew. Subs Maurice Clarke, Paul Whittenbury, Dave Soloway, Andy Lewers. Not used Richard Walker, Aidy Spender, Jamie Parkins, Josh Freedman, Matt Ainsley, Phil McBride, Andy Myall.

All pictures used taken by Martin Pollard.

London Cup Final Preview

After weeks of build-up since semi-final wins against Barnet and AFC Wimbledon respectively, the supporters teams of West Ham and Watford are ready to go head to head in the inaugural IFA London Cup Final, to be played at the Paringdon Sports Club in Harlow this Saturday.

The IFA London Cup

Having won their groups with 100% records earlier in the season, both sides have played some of their best football in this competition,whetting the appetite for an entertaining match. The final is given added spice as the teams have forged a strong friendship during years of friendly rivalry – Saturday’s game is the 22nd meeting since the formation of the IFA – and though that’s likely to take a back seat for 90 minutes, it should also ensure a game played in the best traditions of the IFA league.

“We have a great relationship with Watford which has brought the teams very close and some great friendships have been formed” said Hammers manager Vinnie White earlier this week. “Win or Lose, I expect both teams will celebrate with each other fully after the game” Watford joint manager Dave Messenger echoed that sentiment “The games with West Ham are our favourite fixtures in the calendar. We’ve never met with silverware at stake but I reckon the banter will be flowing before and after the game, as usual, even though both teams will be desperate to win once the first ball is kicked”

West Ham are in their first IFA final and go into this match in a fine run of form with 13 back to back wins, including beating Watford in the IFA league matches both home and away. White won’t be taking anything for granted though, despite that spectacular run. “We are fully aware of the quality that Watford have that wasn’t available to them in the league matches so a close, hard fought match is expected. We have a fully fit squad and will be expecting a good performance on the back of a great run to hopefully finish the season in style with our first ever trophy win”

Watford come into their third IFA final on the back of a mixed season. Having started strongly, good results early in the campaign fizzled out through the winter months but recent improvements have seen the club win 3 of their last 4 outings. Messenger feels their best form has come in this competition and hopes it will continue at the weekend. “We’ve always taken cup competitions more seriously than the league down the years and that’s been the case throughout our London Cup campaign. We’ve got a strong squad out, with 6 survivors from our Worldnet Final against Preston in 2008, and though we know West Ham will be hard to beat, we’re confident of going one better than that day and bringing the cup back to Watford”

The IFA London Cup Final kicks off at 10AM this Saturday, April 21st, at Paringdon Sports Club, Paringdon Road, Harlow, CM19 4QT. Fans of both teams are more than welcome. You can follow the progress of the final, and both clubs, on twitter – @watford_ifc and @WestHamFansFC

Cup Final Squad Named

Joint managers Dave Messenger & Chris Davis have named a 23 man squad for Saturday’s IFA London Cup Final against West Ham. With one or two selection headaches still being mulled over, the management duo have kept all options open for the biggest WIFC game since the Worldnet Final in 2008.

The squad in full –
Matt Ainsley
Maurice Clarke
Jimmy Davis
Chris Dew
Chris Dundon
Josh Freedman
James Hannaford
Leigh Harrington
Jeremy Hinds
Stuart Holdham
Andy Lewers
Phil McBride
Joel Moody
Andy Myall
Stuart Nicholls
Jamie Parkins
Frank Smith
Dave Soloway
Aidy Spender
Rob Sterry
Rob Stone
Richard Walker
Paul Whittenbury

Tom Beck
Tim Down
Warren Flanagan
Simon Jones
Martin Pollard
Alex Prentice
Darren Sear
Ed Sterry
Dan Willis

WIFC 2 Barnet 3

WIFC went down to their first defeat in four games at Met Police this Saturday, as close neighbours Barnet shaded yet another close encounter between the two sides. Having fallen to WIFC in the group stages of the London Cup, the visitors were keen to make amends and started brightly, but it was the hosts who opened the scoring when Andy Lewers, in his first start for the club, collected a good pass from Alex Prentice and his low cross was converted by Andy Myall at the second attempt for his 5th goal of the season.

Barnet were soon level and in controversial fashion when Jake Manzi clearly controlled the ball with his arm before slotting home. The referee had his vision blocked, but Barnet players were quick to admit the offence after the game had already re-started, giving no chance to overturn the decision. The incident left a sour taste, and some niggling incidents punctuated the game from then on, highly unusual for an IFA game and more suited to Sunday League.

That aside, both sides continued to play good football and create goalscoring chances, and it was WIFC who edged ahead before the break. A foul from the visiting keeper David Kirby resulted in a penalty kick, which was converted by Dave Soloway with his 50th goal for the club, and 7th of the season.

After the break, WIFC joint managers Dave Messenger & Chris Davis shuffled the pack, with several players playing for a coveted cup final squad berth. Though a number of the team did their chances no harm, Barnet were in the ascendancy and after some dogged defending from the home side, the visitors finally leveled when Luke Watling drilled home the goal of the game from 25 yards.

Though there were further chances for the home side on the break, notably from Soloway and Frank Smith, Barnet looked more likely. It took a moment of misfortune to break the deadlock, as a miscued defensive header fell into the path of Joe Cullum who took the ball round Tom Beck and was felled by the otherwise excellent home keeper. Watling duly dispatched the penalty to earn the visitors their win.

Joint manager Dave Messenger refused to be downhearted. “Having rested a few of the likely starters for next week, this game was always about seeing how some of those in contention for the Cup Final squad would perform, knowing places are up for grabs. Chris and I were pleased with what we saw and have a number of tough decisions to mull over” said Messenger. “We’d have preferred to notch the win, but games with Barnet are always close and this was no exception. We were dissapointed with the handball, which denied us a decent draw, but confidence is still high for next week and all eyes are now firmly on the final”.

WIFC: Tom Beck; Matt Wells, Aidy Spender, Stuart Nicholls, Lozza Wells; Andy Lewers, Daz Sear, Frank Smith, Richard Murphy, Andy Myall; Alex Prentice. Subs Panos Fellas, Dave Soloway, Ed Sterry, Phil McBride, Dan Willis, Stuart Holdham, Joel Moody, Mat Ball.

Preview – WIFC v Barnet

WIFC welcome their visitors from across Hertfordshire to the Met Police Sports Club this Saturday morning for an IFA League fixture. While preparations for next weekend’s London Cup Final with West Ham continue at a pace, this game is the home side’s 19th of the season, one short of the 20 mark which constitutes a full season for teams in the IFA League.

Barnet are one of two other Herts teams in the IFA and games between the two teams stretch back almost as long as WIFC have been around. The first meeting was way back in November 1997 when Watford made the short trip for an FA Cup first round tie. The fans teams took to the Underhill turf for a half-time penalty shoot-out following the match in the morning, which WIFC had won 7-1.

It took almost ten years for Barnet to appear as a regular opposition, when the current team led by John Hunt joined the IFA. Goals from Paul Watt and Richard Murphy gave WIFC a 2-1 win in September 2007. That close encounter set the tone, and games between the two sides are always close affairs. Barnet completed a league double in 2009/10, but although those came in the middle of 4 consecutive Bees wins, WIFC have won the last two meetings, including a 3-2 win at the Hive earlier this season.

The overall record sees 5 WIFC wins to Barnet’s 4, but with that first win being against a very different Bees team, it’s easy to see why both teams will expect another close game this weekend.

Full Record – WIFC v Barnet

Played Won Drew Lost For Against
9 5 0 4 24 19

All-time WIFC scorers v Barnet
2- Joel Moody, Jimmy Davis
1 – Paul Watt, Richard Murphy, Chris Dew, Chris Dundon, Mark Brennan, Paul Whittenbury, Richard Wenham, Mark Collins, Jamie Parkins, Dave Soloway, Rob Sterry, Warren Flanagan, Alex Prentice.


Squad named for Barnet

Joint managers Chris Davis & Dave Messenger have named a strong 18-man squad for Saturday’s IFA League encounter with Barnet, at the Met Police Sports Club in Bushey. With the London Cup Final against West Ham just one week away, Davis & Messenger have plenty of options available and with a few coming back from injury, the larger than usual squad will allow plenty of game time for all selected.

The squad in full is
Tom Beck, Phil McBride, Ed Sterry, Matt Wells, Dan Willis, Aidy Spender, Stuart Nicholls, Mat Ball, Frank Smith, Stuart Holdham, Daz Sear, Panos Fellas, Lozza Wells, Andy Lewers, Richard Murphy, Andy Myall, Dave Soloway, Alex Prentice.

Jez Hinds, Matt Ainsley, Joel Moody, Richard Wenham

A full preview of the game will appear on this website later this evening.

Eustice rises to the Gold Challenge

Stalwart Steve Eustice is the latest WIFC player to take on a challenge to raise funds for the club’s chosen charity, DebRa. The striker,  who has made over 130 appearances for the club since joining in 2000, is taking on the 2012km Gold Challenge, which is being run in association with the British Olympic Association and is part of the build up to the London Games. The goal is to run, row, swim and cycle a total of 2,012km by the time the Olympics starts. That’s the equivalent of London to Morocco or Bulgaria and works out at about 16km a day.

Steve Eustice, with son James

“I’d been looking for a challenge for a while. I am, as those who know me will confirm, not a natural athlete. Every year I promise to myself that I’ll get fit in time for Worldnet and every time it comes to nothing. Not this year though” said Eustice. “Added to that is the fact that I’ve wanted to do something to raise money for DebRa, a charity that means a lot, not just to me, but all of us at WIFC. Knowing how many requests people get for sponsorship, it had to be something pretty big, a proper challenge, that I could justify hassling people for support. To put it in context, I’ve never run more than 10km, rowed more than 1km, I haven’t owned a bike since I was 18 and I really, really hate swimming!

DebRa has long been the chosen charity of WIFC, which is the national charity working on behalf of people in the UK with the genetic skin blistering condition Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB). Grace and Freddie Fincham, the two eldest children of Pete Fincham, one of the club’s original members, have the condition. A number of fund raising events have been held over the years, not least a match against a team of Watford FC legends in 2009. It it hoped Steve’s efforts will help the club extend the total they’ve raised, which stood at over £10,000 at the end of 2011.

“If anyone can spare a few quid in support it would mean the world to me and will help fund the great work that DebRA do” added Eustice. “You can donate and track my progress, it’ll all be logged here – www.goldchallenge.org/gc/user/steveeustice. I’ll provide some updates along the way through twitter (@steveeustice) and Facebook”

Everyone at WIFC wishes Steve the best of luck for the challenge ahead.