Mob Albion overcome phenomenal display from Meon’s teenage goalkeeper Dec Johnston to lift Mid-Solent League’s Father Purcell Cup

Mob Albion lifted the first trophy of their Mid-Solent League career by beating Meon Milton Reserves in an entertaining Father Purcell Cup final.

By Simon Carter
Tuesday, 19th April 2022, 4:00 pm

A second half double from Mike Prew helped Mob to a 3-2 victory against a Meon side who were reduced to 10 men in the 43rd minute due to a red card.

But for Meon’s teeage goalkeeper Dec Johnston, though, Mob would have been out of sight within the first half hour.

Going down the slope at Horndean’s Five Heads Park, Mob fashioned a host of chances but found Johnston in simply phenomenal form.

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Mob Albion striker Harry Potter, left, with Meon defender Chris Darby. Picture: Sarah Standing

It is hard to believe there has been a more impressive goalkeeping performance anywhere in Hampshire non-league or grassroots football this season.

After only four minutes, Johnston – just 18 - dived to his right to push away an angled shot from Harry Potter.

Two minutes later, Potter was clean through - Johnston getting a fingertip to the striker’s lob at the expense of a corner.

On nine minutes, Cam Palin broke the Meon offside trap and found himself in acres of space on the left-side inside the 18-yard box, but Johnston saved with his legs.

Meon Milton's Barry Jeans, right, and Mob Albion's Joe McIntosh. Picture: Sarah Standing

The keeper flung himself to push away two shots from distance from Prew, while he also stopped another Potter effort.

In addition, Darren Ferguson saw a free-kick strike the inside of Johnston’s far post and rebound to safety while the same player had a header from a corner cleared off the line.

All this within the opening 20 minutes! So, totally against the run of play, Meon took a 21st minute lead.

George Pharoah’s ball over the Mob backline was latched onto by Franco Tossi, who was bundled over inside the 18-yard box. Taylor Hanson converted the spot-kick.

Meon Milton's Sam Sargeant, right, goes in for a tackle. Picture: Sarah Standing

Mob went straight back on the attack with Johnston diving to stop another Prew effort from distance before Dan Hayes’ volley was tipped over for another corner.

Potter was then left holding his head in his hands after Johnston had somehow kept out a close range effort. It was, truly, an incredible display of goalkeeping.

Johnston palmed a Palin header over for yet another corner on 35 minutes, and from this one Mob finally netted - Potter forcing the ball over the line from close range. No-one could say they didn’t deserve it.

A flashpoint on 44 minutes saw Meon reduced to 10 men, with Pharoah red carded for a stamp on Mob left-back James Gurney. It was right in front of the linesman, who instantly alerted ref Reuben Honeychurch-Turner.

Meon Milton skipper Owen Elias, right. Picture: Sarah Standing

Meon briefly lost their heads, with skipper Owen Elias and Sam Sargeant both booked for fouls.

There was still time for Johnston to produce another flying save from Potter before the half-time whistle signalled the end of a lively, entertaining 45 minutes.

It was more of the same at the start of the second half - with Meon having changed to a 3-5-1 formation - with sub Joe McIntosh putting Potter clear, only for Johnston to save with his feet.

Potter curled a shot against the bar before seeing ANOTHER shot saved by Johnston, with sub Mike Newman’s follow-up hitting the heel of a Meon defender.

Meon’s resistance, with only 10 men, couldn’t last and indeed it didn’t on 63 minutes. Prew, in space, was able to take the ball round Johnston before rolling a shot into an empty net. Mob had to go round the keeper, there was no way they were going to go through him!

Potter, again set free, cut inside to curl a shot over the bar and Newman turned in the area to shoot narrowly wide.

Mob Albion's Mike Newman gets away from a Meon defender. Picture: Sarah Standing

Prew sealed victory on 62 minutes when he evaded a couple of challenges in the 18-yard box before scoring with ease.

Meon replied with the last kick of the game, a corner from Jamie Neill deceiving keeper James Griffiths.

The two teams had lifted the curtain on the 2021/22 season by playing each other in Division 1 of the MSL. They ended it with another close game, in terms of the scoreline anyway. In between, they had drawn again (3-3) in the league while Mob had won a Billy Hill Cup tie 5-4.

Meon Milton (yellow/blue) v Mob Albion. Picture: Sarah Standing
Meon Milton (yellow/blue) v Mob Albion. Picture: Sarah Standing