Thatcham Town lifted the Buildbase FA Vase at Wembley Stadium to seal a memorable end to a remarkable season for the Berkshire club.
A first-half penalty from Shane Cooper-Clark, his 62nd goal of a prolific season for him, was enough to secure victory over Stockton Town under the arch.
Having already sealed promotion from the Hellenic League Premier Division this term, enjoying a 40-match unbeaten run in the process, this victory put the gloss on a stunning campaign.
- The Buildbase FA Vase
- The Final
- Sunday 20 May 2018
- Wembley Stadium connected by EE
- Live on BT Sport
Cooper-Clark may take the plaudits for his record, but the contribution of defender Baboucarr Jarra at the other end on Sunday was just as important on this occasion.
Time and again, the big central defender put his body on the line to deny Stockton a goal as they chased a way back.
His crucial first contribution came in the opening exchanges when Stockton almost took the lead, as Fred Woodhouse hooked a shot over keeper Chris Rackley and across goal. The aptly-named Chris Stockton raced into the area to knock home, but Jarra kept it level as he bravely headed clear.
And the importance of that was exemplified moments later, when Thatcham took the lead from the penalty spot. Jordan Brown, who had proved a constant menace in the early stages, broke past two men and into the area where he was upended by James Ward.
Cooper-Clark stepped up from the spot and despite Michael Arthur getting a hand to his effort, it just had too much power and flew into the net.
Arthur then made an important save in first-half stoppage time as Cooper-Clark sent a stinging volley at goal after his first free-kick had been blocked.
There was another let-off for the Anchormen just shy of the hour mark when Ekow Ellliott skipped clear on the left to square for Gavin James, but the striker’s instinctive flick was straight at Arthur.
Six minutes later, James had Arthur beaten when Cooper-Clark’s cutback set him up only for his shot to crash against the underside of the bar and bounce back off the line to safety.
There was still life in Stockton though, and it took another heroic block from Jarra to prevent an equaliser with ten minutes left, as he got in the way of Woodhouse’s blast as the Northern League side piled the pressure on.
And they kept knocking at the door, forcing corner after corner as they looked for an equaliser, but when Dale Mulligan header over when well placed, it gave Thatcham the chance they needed to regroup.
The excitement wasn’t over, as another late Stockton flag-kick saw Arthur joining the attack, but as Thatcham broke clear and sub Ross Cook carried the ball forward to roll into an empty goal, a remarkable late slide-clearance from Matthew Garbutt kept the score down in a breathtaking finale before full time came seconds later.
Stockton Town: 1 Michael Arthur, 2 Joe Carter, 3 James Ward, 4 Nathan Mulliugan, 5 Dale Mulligan, 6 Tom Coulthard (C), 7 Kevin Hayes, 9 Fred Woodhouse, 10 Jamie Owens, 11 James Risborough, 15 Chris Stockton
Substitutes: 16 Matthew Garbutt for Carter 61, 14 Sonni Coleman for Stockton 66, 12 Adam Nicholson for Ward 79
Substitutes not used: 17 Alan Cossavella, 18 Chris Dunwell
Manager: Michael Dunwell
Thatcham Town: 1 Chris Rackley, 2 Lewis Brownhill, 3 Curtis Angell, 4 Tom Melledew, 5 Baboucarr Jarra, 6 Tom Moran, 8 Harrison Bayley, 9 Shane Cooper-Clark, 10 Gavin James, 11 Ekow Elliott, 20 Jordan Brown
Substitutes: 18 Jemel Johnson for Brown 70, 16 Ross Cook for Cooper-Clark 78, 17 Ashleigh James for Melledew 83
Substitutes not used: 14 Harry Grant, 15 Gareth Thomas
Manager: Danny Robinson
Goals: Shane Cooper-Clark 24 pen
Referee: John Brooks
Assistant referees: Adrian Waters & Craig Taylor
Fourth official: Antony Coggins