If Prince of Wales manager Steve Ferre was shouting ‘stay covered at the back’ in his side’s London Cup final with Cowplain United XIs, you would’ve assumed he was talking to his defence.
Instead, he was probably looking at his right-hand man Martin Roberts, who, after a bush-related incident, was left a bit exposed.
This wasn’t some in-vogue backless number, hot from Milan that Roberts was donning, though. Merely an adventure to retrieve a stray ball in the trees at Moneyfields FC that went horribly wrong.
Although the ball was found, unluckily for the man his team call ‘Gus’, Roberts’ shirt was ripped from below the shoulders by prickly bushes, meaning his back was on show for all to see.
And by the end of the match it wasn’t just Roberts’ attire in tatters but Prince’s trophy ambitions, too, as they eventually lost 3-2.
In an even game between two sides from Portsmouth Sunday League division two, it was a superb winner that gave Cowplain the glory, Lee Riou’s spectacular acrobatic effort settling the final with 15 minutes left.
United had to come from behind, too, as Prince took the lead within the first 10 minutes, top-scorer Josh Lee keeping up his impressive record of having scored in every round by coolly slotting home a Wez Hills pass. Cowplain were soon level, though, when Luke Steere broke through on goal before cleverly lifting the ball over on-rushing Prince keeper Mark Martin.
The game then swung in Cowplain’s favour when they took a 2-1 advantage, Jamie Libby stroking in from the edge of the area after good work from Steve Gatrell.
Yet the teams went into half-time level as Prince striker Colin Randall beat the offside trap to finish from close range.
After the break, both sides had chances to win it – Libby’s goal-bound shot was blocked before Lee had Prince’s best chance, firing over from 12 yards.
Centre-back Dan Chester then had his shot well saved by Cowplain keeper Robert Chiverton who was playing his last game before retiring.
It turned out to be a swansong to remember as, after a great cross from substitute James O’Burn, Riou somehow managed to connect with the ball as it came over his head, his effort flying into the top corner.
After seeing his side stand firm to seal victory, Cowplain manager Reg Nealgrove was more than delighted, admitting it was a fitting end to his veteran goalie’s parks career.
‘It will be nice for Chiv (Chiverton) to get a mention as it was his last game after 40-odd years!’ said Nealgrove.
‘We’ve beaten some good teams to get to the final, including MSC Athletic in the semis, and it was nice to win this after finishing second in the league.’
Although his side ended up victorious, Nealgrove knew they’d been pushed all the way by their opponents.
But that didn’t stop him thinking ahead to their post-match festivities.
‘It was great for us to win but they gave us a really good game, as they have done the two times we’ve played them in the league.
‘Now we’re all going to go out and celebrate.’
All that was left was for joint-captains Steve Baker and Steere to lift aloft the trophy and look forward to a night out tearing up the town.
For Roberts and Prince of Wales, though, the less said about tearing the better...