HM Naval Base had to dig deep to come out on top in this enthralling Devon County Midweek Cup Final which was, for them, the first step in what could be a remarkable quadruple of trophies as their season draws to a close.
With the Devon Wednesday League Premier division title almost in their grasp with a 100% record of 10 straight wins, this Naval Base team are also finalists in the Larry Spear Premier Division final and semi-finalists in the Devon Wednesday League Cup.
However, on a heavy Coach Road pitch made ready by the hard-working groundsman, despite being snow covered for two days, a young Plymouth Argyle Football in the Community team gave them a stern test. Indeed, had the Argyle lads brought their shooting boots with them they would surely have prevailed.
Following a tentative start Naval Base broke through the Argyle defence and, in the 3rd minute, a cross from Gary Hird on the left hit the bar and flew out to Sammy Hanslip on the edge of the box.
His shot came in hard and low but was well saved by the Argyle custodian Tom Watson diving full length to his left. That seemed to shake up the young Argyle lads who took the game to their opponents and Naval Base were having difficulty coping with the pace of the Argyle front three.
In the 10th minute, Argyle should have taken the lead when Ben Musselwhite found himself on the end of a cross from Joe Lewis with only the keeper to beat but somehow managed to slice the ball wide from 10 yards out. Two minutes later Argyle’s Reece Thompson, having spotted the Naval Base keeper, Ben McIlvaney, off his line, attempted a lob from fully 40 yards which landed on the roof of the net.
Argyle were having most of the possession but were profligate with their opportunities as typified in the 25th minute when Joe Lewis found himself one on one with McIlvaney. Instead of going round the keeper he chose to shoot from just inside the box and McIlvaney pulled off a fine save diving to his left to push the ball past the post.
Two minutes later Argyle really should have scored when a corner from the left found two Argyle players a yard from the line, but both fluffed their lines as the ball flew across goal and McIlvaney was able to grab it and clear.
Little had been seen of the Naval Base as an attacking force but, as often happens in these games, they took the lead. In the 40th minute, Gary Hird came in unseen from the left to head a bouncing ball across Watson in to the far top corner; one nil to the Navy.
Two minutes before half time they could have had a second but Hird somehow contrived to mishit his shot off a cross from the left, and the half time whistle blew with just the single goal between the two sides.
At the start of the second half Naval Base’s Kriss Young curled a free kick from 22yds over the wall but was foiled by Watson and that was really the last we saw of the Navy as an attacking force as they determined to protect their one goal advantage. Racking up in a 4-4-2 formation and often having 8 or 9 players behind they ball they stifled the life out of the Argyle attacks.
Determined to get something from their attacking intent Argyle made their first change replacing the rangy Lewis with the pace of Ewan Morgan and within minutes he almost brought them level, finishing a four-man passing move down the right only to see his shot fly over the angle of bar and post with McIlvaney well beaten.
In the 84th minute, much the same as in the first half, Musselwhite found himself clean through but managed to slice his left foot shot wide from 10 yards. A minute later Argyle got the reward their attacking play deserved when an excellent cross from Jack Rhead, wide on the left, was headed home by Reece Thompson despite the close attentions of two Navy defenders.
This brought a grandstand finish as the Navy realised that they needed to get back onto the attack. In the 87th minute Kurtis Elder raced through the Argyle defence, beat two defenders and fired his shot in from the edge of the box only to be denied by Watson, who pulled off a good save.
Both sides were going for it now and in the 2nd minute of 3 minutes added time Argyle’s Morgan got on the end of another excellent cross from Rhead but blazed over with the goal at his mercy.
From the ensuing goal kick the ball was played down the right and, with seconds remaining, man of the match, Gary Hird, was on hand to head home from close range giving HM Naval Base victory by the narrowest of margins.
Man of the Match: Gary Hird (HM Naval Base)
The next final is the Graddon Vending Women’s Supplementary Cup between Budleigh Salterton Ladies and Buckland Ath. Ladies Reserves at Coach Road on Friday 23rd March kicking off at 7.15pm.
You can watch full match coverage and commentary on our Facebook Page! Click the link below to watch full match:
Hm naval base 2 - 1 plymouth argyle fitc u19's
You can also see a full photo album from the game in our photos section on facebook - photos courtesy of miracle pr photography