Rovers retain County Cup after Nolan strikes late to down AFC

Beds County Cup Final: Barton Rovers 2 AFC Dunstable 1

Friday, 18th March 2016, 3:30 pm
Barton Rovers chairman Darren Whiley with captain Paul Andrews

Barton Rovers retained the Beds County Cup by beating AFC Dunstable 2-1 in the final at Kenilworth Road on Tuesday evening.

Both teams sounded each other out for the first 10 minutes as Barton almost struck first, but Jordan Davis’ effort was blocked by Newman Carney.

AFC then started to gain the upper hand and were in front on 12 minutes when Carney’s corner was headed home by Nathan Frater.

Looking for a second, AFC thought they had it when Christie unleashed a shot that seemed destined for the top corner only for Kyle Forster to pull off a wonder save and somehow deny him.

Forster was again to frustrate Christie midway through the half when he saved well from a low shot.

It seemed it would only be a matter of time before AFC got their second, only to hit the self destruct button on 37 minutes as former player James Bishop slotted home from close range.

After the break, both sides began by cancelling each other out as Forster stood firm for Barton.

With 20 minutes to go, Josh Humbert had the chance to put AFC back in front, but he didn’t get enough power on his header to worry Forster.

Soon afterwards, AFC had a penalty appeal turned down when Carney’s shot appeared to have struck a hand.

With the game entering the final 10 minutes, both teams decided to go for it as Rovers brought on Jason Blackett to partner Matt Nolan up front.

The pair started to get behind the AFC defence and with penalties looming, combined for the winning goal as an effort deflected perfectly into the path of Nolan, who tapped home from a matter of yards.

With three minutes of stoppage time added, AFC went all out to take the game to spot kicks and nearly succeeded when the ball dropped to Frater 15 yards out but his shot was saved by Forster.

Barton chairman Darren Whiley said: “If the game was about chances and possession, AFC should have won but it’s goals that count and the lads took their chances to win it.

“Our manager watched them a number of times and had a game plan, I can’t say it worked well but our defending was resolute against their quality front-line.

“The lads had to dig deep as AFC came at us for the whole 90 minutes but credit to every Barton player as they really did put in a massive shift and ground out the result.

“Back to back wins is fantastic for every one connected at the club and shows how far we have come in the last few seasons.

“Good luck to AFC Dunstable in their efforts to secure a Southern League spot next season. It would be great to have another local derby with a quality set-up like they are.”

Meanwhile, AFC boss Steve Heath added: “Firstly I would like to congratulate Barton on their success but it would be only fair to say we dominated most of the game, took a deserved lead and apart from their keeper making two great saves from BJ Christie, we could have been 3-0 up after 25 minutes.

“But and a big but, we gifted them the equaliser, as we did not clear our lines and the winner was just a fluke and we had no time to recover as it was in the 90th minute.

“They say major decisions and luck even themselves out throughout the season. Well we have 11 games left and it is about time we started to see ours, as decisions are starting to pile up.”