Kai Walters’ late header ensured Ascot United lifted the Isuzu FA Vase for the first time in their history as the Yellamen defeated holders Newport Pagnell Town 1-0 at Wembley.
The substitute stooped to convert Sean McCormack’s cross with 10 minutes to play to complete an unforgettable season for Ascot, who came into this fixture fresh from securing the Combined Counties League Premier Division North title.
Both sides struck the woodwork during an entertaining final, with Town unable to defend the trophy they won in style 12 months ago.
Ascot started brightly and were first to threaten, Jordan Ajanlekoko’s glancing header cleared off the line by a combination of Christian Smail and the post inside four minutes.
Ben Ford and Jake Watkinson saw long-range efforts miss the target as the holders grew into the contest while the prolific Brendan Matthew, scorer of 47 goals this season including 11 on Ascot’s run to the final, shot straight at Martin Conway with his first glimpse of goal.
The Swans then joined Ascot in being denied by the woodwork, Mo Ahmed striking the outside of the post from a tight angle, and Albie Hall was next to go close as he couldn’t quite convert Ben Ford’s teasing cross at the back post.
Hall was heavily involved in Newport’s next chance, his ball across just evading his strike partner Watkinson in the 27th minute as the free-scoring pair showed evidence of their dangerous link-up.
Jay Welch curled narrowly wide from 20 yards out at the other end as chances continued to come for both sides but neither could find a breakthrough before the interval.
The Buckinghamshire outfit had the first chance of the second period through a familiar source, Watkinson diverting Hall’s low cross wide with the outside of his right foot.
Alfie Grant headed a dangerous McCormack cross on to the roof of the net for Ascot and the winger continued to cause problems, sparking panic in the Town penalty area with a cross which was fumbled by Conway before being cleared.
Both sides turned to their bench to try and find a breakthrough and Marcus Mealing almost made an instant impact for the Yellamen with 15 minutes to play, crashing a header against the crossbar from a corner he had earned with a shot pushed wide by Conway.
Ascot’s pressure paid off shortly afterwards when McCormack again probed down the right-hand side and sent in a low cross which Walters got to first, steering his header into the bottom corner to spark jubilant scenes among the fans who had made the short trip from Berkshire.
Newport Pagnell pushed for a late leveller but Sage and Hall both saw efforts from distance saved by Rhys Forster as Ascot held on to take the spoils.
Ascot United: 1 Rhys Forster, 2 George Lock, 26 Alfie Grant, 23 Harry Tucker, 4 Jordan Ajanlekoko, 6 Dan Bailey, 3 Rob Gerrard, 8 Harry Grant, 14 Jay Welch, 7 Sean McCormack, 10 Brendan Matthew
Substitutes: 22 Kai Walters (for Gerrard, 22’), 9 Marcus Mealing (for Welch, 71’), 25 Chris Ellis (for Lock, 82’)
Substitutes not used: 5 Louis Bowers, 13 Sam Negus, 15 Sam Balogun, 17 Keaton August
Newport Pagnell: 1 Martin Conway, 21 Russell Short (captain), 6 Alfie Powell, 3 James Sage, 11 Ben Ford, 14 Lewis Wilson, 8 Ben Shepherd, 4 Christian Smail, 19 Mo Ahmed, 9 Jake Watkinson, 10 Albie Hall
Substitutes: 15 Shane Bush (for Short, 22’), 16 Joe Evans (for Ford, 78’), 2 Adam Pryke (for Wilson, 78’)
Substitutes not used: 13 Daniel Willett, 7 Kieran Barnes, 17 Aaron Pike, 20 Nathan Muya Tshikuna