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Eccleshall leave it late to clinch shield glory

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02 April 2003 | editor

Two second-half strikes were enough for Eccleshall to book their place in the final of the Sentinel Shield after a 2-0 defeat of Stone Dominoes at the Lyme Valley Stadium.

In a hard-fought encounter, Eccleshall deservedly took the honours with two goals in the latter stages, despite a determined effort from a plucky Stone side. Playing against a blustery wind in the first half, Eccleshall signalled their intentions in the opening minute when a low drive from John Hancock was well saved by Will Reid in the Stone goal.

Reid had to be sharp again to deny Donovan Molloy as Eccleshall controlled the opening exchanges.

Gradually, the Doms began to find their feet and Alistair Candlish chested down a free-kick before firing a shot straight at Gary Goodwin.

With the wind at their backs, Stone began to gain the ascendancy, but although Dave Ashley had two efforts on goal, they were unable to break the deadlock before the interval.

Eccleshall began the second period strongly, the lively Molloy feeding Stephen Brannan, whose right-foot shot flew wide.

Molloy spurned a golden opportunity when he blazed over the bar after good work by Hancock, and Eccleshall came even closer when Aaron Kelter's superb 30-yard free-kick cannoned off the crossbar.

Increasing pressure finally told on 70 minutes when tricky footwork from Molloy saw him engineer a shot from a tight angle which deflected off a Dominoes defender into the net.

Eccleshall nearly doubled their lead immediately when Brannan met a well-worked corner with a right-foot shot, which was brilliantly saved by Reid.

The game was marred in the closing stages when Molloy spoiled his good work on the night by being sent off after lashing out at an opponent following a scuffle.

However, it wasn't to effect matters as, in the dying moments, substitute Matthew Gibson ran on to a long ball and expertly lobbed the unlucky Reid to seal victory for his side and a place against Newcastle Town or Congleton Vale Juniors in the final. "We deserved it overall," said Eccleshall manager Neville Kelter.

"We struggled a little in the first half when Stone played well, but with the wind in the second half we created some good chances and made the most of them."

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