This year’s Les Phillips Cup Final will be played out by two Devon teams on a Dorset pitch as Willand Rovers got past Bridgwater Town while Plymouth Parkway won at Cadbury Heath on Wednesday evening.
Sherborne Town will be the venue for the final on May Bank Holiday Monday at 3pm and it will be a fitting climax with two of the three sides battling for the Toolstation Western League Premier Division title – and possible promotion to the Southern League – going head to head with the large carrot of a league and cup double up for grabs should the last two weeks of league action pan out, although Bitton could easily scupper both club’s aspirations.
There will be plenty of water passing under numerous bridges before that game and Willand and Bridgy lock horns again in two week’s time, again on a Wednesday and if that game is anything like the semi-final there will be no love lost and the league might have to import Anthony Joshua to referee it.
Craig Scrivens had the unenviable task at Silver Street and having booked five players in the first half a red card was almost inevitable in the second and it went to Willand’s Josh Searle after he was judged to have gone in late on Jake Llewellyn leaving the home side to battle for 35 minutes with ten men and a goal down. To their credit they battled away without creating much in the way of chances and it took a moment of individual brilliance from substitute Ben Bickle to rescue the tie and take it to a penalty shoot out which Rovers came through with some to spare.
It was hard on Bridgy who had the best of the chances and stood toe to toe with Rovers in a match which veered from fierce to uncompromising while occasionally edging into ugly. Robins’ keeper Connor Sidley-Adams parried a Luke Alden shot early then at the other end Mike Searle brought off a stunning tipped save from a Mark Armstrong header. Searle was in the book early as both teams were guilty of getting their retaliation in first but Bridgwater took the lead on 21 minutes when a long crossfield pass found the galloping Jack Taylor and he gave Searle no chance with a stunning finish from 15 yards. Referee Scrivens then had his work cut out booking two more from each side in an unpleasant spell before Willand finished the half with Brett Worbey being denied by a last gasp block.
After the restart Searle went for an early bath and Bridgy went for the jugular with Tom Ellis’s free header from a corner going straight to a relieved Searle then Rovers’ boss Russell Jee threw on Dean Stamp and he found the net inside 20 seconds but was clearly offside. Bickle was also introduced and he cut in from the left to drill a shot across Sidley-Adams to level matters and it was game on with 15 minutes left. Worbey had a free-kick saved well by Sidley-Adams but it was the last action and the tie went straight to a penalty shoot out. Mike Searle was to prove the hero with two saves and Willand went through 3-2 to set up the final and the league game, again at Silver Street in 14 days which could be the title decider.