by Callum Ellis & Bryn Goodall
JOE Evans nodded home a dramatic 127th-minute winner to snatch the BUCS Championship trophy for 10-man University of South Wales against Hartpury.
Defender Evans, who suffered Welsh League Cup heartache with his club side Cambrian and Clydach Vale in January, was on the winning side this time around as he became the hero in Nottingham.
The victory sees Lee Kendall’s men seal a league and cup double after wrapping up the BUCS Premier South title with an unbeaten campaign.
Despite a slow opening to the game, the first chance fell in favour of USW as midfielder Clayton Green shot narrowly wide of the target.
If Hartpury were going to pave open any chances inside the first 45 minutes, it looked as though it would come through Kyle Finn. The winger worked his way in from the left and cleverly got a shot away but failed to trouble goalkeeper Ashley Morris.
Mikey George also went close to breaking the dead-lock after he skipped past his marker and forced Hartpury goalkeeper Harvey Rivers into making a save.
The best chance of the half fell to Kendall’s men in the final stages after Louis Gerrard held the ball up well and found captain Kane Owen in space down the left. Owen returned the favour with a cross into Gerrard who stooped low to beat the goalkeeper with a header, only to see his effort rebound off the crossbar.
USW again went close after the interval as Liam Edwards’ low drive was parried by goalkeeper Rivers at the expense of a corner. Hartpury’s Karnell Chambers then found space on the edge of the area and unleashed an effort which was well dealt with by Rivers’ opposite number Morris.
✅ BUCS Premier South
✅ BUCS Championship
Nine wins. Four draws. Zero defeats.@USWFootball: The Invincibles.
— SportsJournoUSW (@SportsJournoUSW) March 27, 2019
The Gloucestershire-based side could have, however, nicked it in normal time with two chances in the final stages. Adam Page’s curling free-kick sailed over the crossbar, before Harry Franklin struck wide of the target with an ambitious effort from range.
The teams could not be separated in 90 minutes and extra time was required to determine the outcome.
Page again went close with a shot that floated onto the roof of the Morris’ net, but it was USW who should have taken the lead with four minutes remaining on the clock.
Substitute Lee Baldock met Myles John’s cross into the area and the ball fell into the path of Green, who sent a glorious chance over the top of the crossbar.
Green was not given any time to rue his mistake on the pitch and was soon given his marching orders by the referee following a second yellow card, leaving USW with 10 men for the remainder of extra time.
And things appeared to go from bad to worse when Hartpury had the ball in the back of the net, only for the referee to award a free-kick for a foul on goalkeeper Morris.
The tie looked as though it was going to be decided in the most cruel of fashions – penalty kicks. But it was Evans who stepped up to become the hero.
Captain Owen, as he has done on so many occasions throughout the campaign, delivered a threatening ball which was flicked on by Evans to send the USW bench into raptures and seal the win for USW.
The questions for the management team now are: What happens next season? How do they top the double, a league and cup win combined with going unbeaten all campaign?