Leeds Gryphons made history on Wednesday as they came back from 3-1 down to beat Northumbria 4-3 in extra time to win the BUCS Northern Conference Cup. Alec Jackson’s side had been trailing until around 10 minutes to go, but a hat-trick from semi final hero George Bucknall turned the tie around.
Leeds knew that they would face a well drilled Northumbria side that would attack with pace and precision, after facing their opponents in the league in a 4-3 away defeat just two days before the final. However, the Gryphons battled well in the middle of the field for much of the first half, winning the scraps for possession. Leeds attacked well but were unable to convert their short corners; normally such a strong point of their game.
For all the Leeds pressure, the pace of Northumbria always threatened on the break and, with minutes to go before half time, Leeds went behind. Northumbria raced away down the right hand side and managed to push a ball through the crowded D to a waiting forward, who had ample time to fire a lethal low shot past Tom Hodgetts in the Leeds goal.
The Northumbria lead was doubled moments into the second half as a scrappy attack somehow found its way past the Leeds defensive line. The ball was squared across the face of goal, leaving the Northumbria forward with the empty goal to give them a 2-0 lead. However, Leeds responded swiftly with a similar effort of their own, Andy Farenheim applying a smart flicked finish into the left corner of the goal.
The Leeds comeback seemed to have been halted before it had even begun though, as Northumbria added their third goal of the game. A ball into the Gryphons’ D found a Northumbria player who was able to take the ball on his reverse stick and find the left hand corner of the Leeds net, in what seemed to be the decisive moment; but comeback kings Leeds had other ideas.
A long stoppage for a serious Northumbria injury gave Hugh Wood’s side a chance to regroup, and when play restarted there was only one team in the game. Rob Clarke proved a real handful as the game became increasingly stretched, winning Leeds a number of short corners. Leeds’ short corner game finally began to click, and when George Bucknall saw his initial drag-flick blocked, Bucknall seized upon the rebound and sent it cannoning in off the post.
With the seconds slipping away, Leeds won another short and Bucknall delivered another unstoppable effort; unleashing a drag flick into the corner of the Northumbria net. The game was all tied up at 3-3 as Leeds headed into a second consecutive extra time encounter.
This time it was a golden goal affair and one that Leeds dominated from the outset. The Gryphons won an early short corner and once again Bucknall did not disappoint, clipping a clean strike into the bottom left corner of the Northumbria goal, clinching the cup and sending the crowd into raptures; the comeback was complete.
Hodgetts; Golding, Jackson, Berry, Turner; Mellor, Gallegos, Cox; Evans, Bucknall, Tuckwell
Subs: Clarke, Farenheim, Kimberlin, Waddup, Willis
Photo: Miranda Inman