Congleton Town secured the 2022-23 Macron Cup in an enthralling Cup Final held at Chorley FC's Victory Park.
Over 1000 people witnessed a tense but enjoyable game as both sides gave their all. The first half was a tactical battle in which Congleton had the upper hand for large parts, spreading the play out wide and getting the ball into the box on numerous occasions. The Bacup defence was well marshalled though, Gaz Wager holding things strong at the back and Mason Fallon chasing everything down to break up The Bears sorties forwards. Bacup were not without threat themselves in the half, they carried a strong counter attacking threat, Callum Hewitt driving forwards with the ball at every opportinuty, looking to try and play in the forward line of Michael Gervin and Toby Wright at every opportunity.
The half time interval arrived with Bacup having ridden a bit of a storm but very much in the game. The crowd were very vocal, some unique chants taking place but still making quite an atmosphere. The Birds Nest Cafe was doing a roaring trade throughout the game and the queue at half time stretched 40 strong despite the valiant efforts of the catering team. Kudos too for the music selection throughout the match, at half time, several 'bangers' were playing over the sound system which provided a good backdrop to the high level of topical debates that were taking place around the ground.
As the second half recommenced it was Congleton who started the livlier and it was with the run of play that they took the lead on 53 minutes, Dan Needham was found on the right hand side, he took the ball towards the by-line and cut the ball in towards Tom Pope, who challenged by the Bacup Goalkeeoer and a defender managed to get to the ball first to get the ball into the back of the net.
Bacup were immediately back into the game, pressing hard to get back into the game and they began to see good periods of possession in the Congleton half and it was not too much of a surprise when on 62 minutes, Kyle Siddle put in a sweet cross which found the head of Toby Wright who nodded home, to the delight of the considerable Bacup support, 1-1.
The game was fast flowing now with both teams really challenging, the football was easy on the eye as both teams played football with the ball on the ground and neat intricate passing moves. On 76 minutes there was more drama when Bacup Substiture Ross Mallinson brought down Pope in the box which the referee deemed a penalty. This caused a number of heated protests which the referee needed a couple of minutes of negotiation and discussion to take control of the situation such was the disputed nature of the challenge. When all was said and done, it was Lewis Short who stepped up and put the penalty away with the clock showing 80 minutes, 2-1 Congleton.
Bacup had the wind in their sails at this point and were pressing hard for an equaliser, they had a couple of half chances that Dave Parton had dealt with in the Congleton goal-mouth but on 90+1 minutes there was nothing Parton could do, as after some good build-up play from midfield, Toby Wright let rip with an absolute screamer from outside of the box which flew into the top right hand corner of the net to level the scores. Dramatic - absolutely, but that was the way the game had been throughout. A couple of minutes later the referee blew for full time and the game went to the lottery of penalties.
We always have to salute those who take part in penalty shoot-outs as it takes a certain level of nerves and steel to step up and take one and to be in goal to try and save them. We wont list who the scorers and non-scorers were as that takes away from the day. However, there was a nervous shoout out which was played-out in front of a packed end at Victory Park, both sets of supporters equally partisan and both supportive of their team. Ultimately it was Congleton who ran out winners, 4-3 in the shoot out by way of two bissed penalties from Bacup. The Cheshire clubs fans were delighted as they celebrated their sides win. The Bacup supporters, downheartened for sure but still supportive of their players right until the end.
What was disappointing was some of the "feedback" offered to match officials prior to the various presentations, some of it was quite personal and thankfully dealt with by the Stewards and League Officials at the time. Let that take nothing away from the occasion though, it was a great game of football.
The presentation was carried out by Macron UK representative Mr Peter Hickford, ably assisted by League Vice-Chairman Geoff Wilkinson and Directors, Martin Fallon and Gary Langley. Bacup Borough were presented with their runners-up medals first from the presentation party and there were warm words shared at this point as Bacup had proven themselves as worthy finalists and were so close to winning it. They will undoubtedly be back next year, stronger and wiser for their experiences. They already have the Edward Case Trophy secured this season and have been strong in the league.
On to the winners, the presentation of the trophy went to Bears skipper, Tom Pope who accepted the trophy and walked with purpose to the squad that were gathered to his left, he hoisted the trophy aloft with his team mates to a massive roar from the travelling Congleton support.
Congleton Town FC - NWCFL Macron Cup Winners 2022-23