To be in the London Senior Trophy Final is huge for us, says Forest Hill Park manager Darrell Queeley
FOREST HILL PARK manager Darrell Queeley says playing in the London Senior Trophy Final for the very first time is huge for the club.
There will be a new name on the silverware as two Southern Counties East Football League First Division sides clash on Barking’s recently-laid artificial pitch on Saturday.
Forest Hill Park were sitting in 12th place in the table after collecting seven points from as many games, while now managerless side FC Elmstead were struggling in the bottom three, having collected four points from their eight league outings by the time that the 2020-21 campaign was halted due to the coronavirus health pandemic.
However, the London Football Association have continued with their cup competitions and games have been crammed in over recent weeks to ensure this competition comes to a climax for these amateur Step Six sides tomorrow.
Forest Hill Park have beaten South Kilburn (2-0), Meridian VP (walkover), Hackney Wick (4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw) and Bridon Ropes (2-1) to reach the showpiece final.
Reflecting on their Semi-Final win over league rivals Bridon Ropes, Queeley said: “The game was extremely tight and could have gone either way. Both teams competed in great spirits and it was a challenge right to the final whistle.
“Unfortunately, only one team can progress. We are ecstatic that team is Forest Hill Park.”
FC Elmstead have beaten Phoenix Sports Reserves (walkover), Metrogas (3-2), Balham B (3-2), before coming back from being 2-0 down at half-time to beat AFC Cubo 5-2 after extra time at Meridian VP FC on Tuesday night.
General manager Fabio Rossi has been put in temporary charge for the games against Balham B, AFC Cubo and Forest Hill Park after losing their manager Ennio Gonnella to his old side, Kent Football United, on 9 May 2021.
FC Elmstead are inviting applications for their managerial vacancy next season. The side hire Sutton Athletic’s ground at Lower Road in Hextable.
Rossi revealed that he is scratching around for players ahead of the game, making Forest Hill Park favourites to land the silverware.
“Ennio Gonnella got the Kent Football United job and left us and there are only three first-team players left from his squad,” said Rossi.
“The London FA allowed us to sign an emergency goalkeeper signing as Mackenzie Foley also went to Kent Football United.”
On reaching the club’s first Cup Final as a non-league football club, Rossi added: “All in all, it’s a remarkable achievement but now we are in the final we will be giving it our all to win it.”
AFC Cubo reached last year’s London Senior Trophy Final, holding Kent County League Premier Division side Peckham Town to a goal-less draw after 120 minutes of football before Mary Phillip’s side celebrated winning the competition for the first time by winning 5-4 on penalties.
However, despite stunning Southern Counties East League First Division side Croydon 3-0 in the Second Round on 24 April 2021, Peckham Town were sent crashing out of the competition at the next hurdle by losing 4-2 on penalties to Bridon Ropes after a goal-less draw.
“We have been focusing on us. We are an improving team. We have some good players but our performances are still some way off the sides we aspire to be on level terms with,” said Queeley, who reflects on the past couple of seasons that have not finished due to Covid-19.
“It’s been tough for all involved equally. The stop-start seasons hasn’t helped anyone.
“For us personally, being quite a youthful side, I do feel our players have missed out on development. You want them to play the likes of Kennington, Rusthall and Holmesdale home and away to see what’s required to compete at the top at this level.”
When asked whether he had any complaints that the final is being played over in Essex, Queeley replied: “We’re in a final – give us the address, we’ll be there!
“FC Elmstead always have and always will be a well-run club who consistently put out competitive teams.
“We are aware this will be a very tough game for us. We will give Elmstead the utmost respect. We are familiar with their team and many of the players know each other.
“To be in the Final is huge for us. I am very proud of the boys. What would it mean to win it? Right now, we are solely focused on winning a game of football.
“We have a full squad available, which is great.
“There is such an amazing family feeling at this club. Clayton Walters has been absolutely amazing in supporting what we are trying to build here.
“We don’t have any cash. We offer a bundle of love and a great environment for young players to come and further their development.
“My management team of Trefor Lloyd and Tristan Copley have been unbelievable. They do three or four different roles each and I can’t thank them enough for their continuous support. I am beyond appreciative.”
Fans are welcome to attend the game, which kicks off at 3:30pm and tickets priced at £10 (adults) and £5 (concessions) can be purchased at the turnstiles.
If scores are level after 90 minutes then the game goes to extra-time with the game being settled by a penalty shoot-out, if required, just like last season’s Final, which was played closer to home at Cray Valley’s ground in Eltham.
Forest Hill Park v FC Elmstead
London Senior Trophy Final (Sponsored by Kick Up Sports)
Saturday 29 May 2021
Kick Off 3:30pm
at Mayesbrook Park, Lodge Avenue, Dagenham, Essex RM8 2JR