Leverstock Green 1 Bishop’s Stortford 2
LEVERSTOCK Green suffered cup final heartbreak as they were hit by a late Bishop’s Stortford winner at the County Ground in Letchworth.
Levy had put in a brave performance against their lofty opponents, but were eventually undone five minutes from the end of the game as Stortford snatched a goal to claim the Herts Charity Cup.
Green can take great pride in their performance, though, having repelled their Conference South opponents for so much of the game.
A trophy would have been a fitting send-off for departing Levy manager Steve Heath – who takes charge of his last game of the club on Saturday – but it was not be for his courageous side.
Despite the end result, however, Heath said he was understandably proud of his team’s performance.
“The lads were outstanding,” he said. “I don’t know where they got it from to be honest.
“I’m so proud of them – we just ran out of legs a bit at the end.
“But our lads were clapped off by everyone, including the Bishop’s Stortford supporters which shows just how much effort they had put in.
“They were really down after the game because they had put so much effort in, but they can take so much out of the performance.”
Things did not start well for Green, and a thrashing looked on the cards as Stortford took the lead after just three minutes through a Dwight Gayle free-kick.
Rather than lose their confidence, however, the set-back only served to increase Levy’s determination and they were back on level terms after 28 minutes.
After pulling off two good saves, Levy keeper Carl Tasker launched the ball upfield, where Lewis Pritchard was on hand to race clear of the Stortford defence and finish with aplomb from a tight angle.
Three minutes before the break, Green went close again when Bekim Culaj ran down the left and delivered the ball across the face of the Stortford goal, but nobody could get on the end of it and the teams went in at half-time with the scores locked at 1-1.
Stortfold came out with intent in the second half, and launched a torrent of attacking blasts on the Levy goal.
Reece Prestedge went close with a rising shot after 54 minutes, and an effort from Ritchie Jones struck the bar five minutes later, but Green continued to stand firm in the face of the mounting pressure.
And Levy created a good chance of their own in the 70th minute as Culaj whipped over a cross which was spilled by Stortford keeper Jordan Archer before being gathered at the second time of asking as Dan Griggs was poised to pounce.
As the clock ticked, the prospect of extra-time loomed large – until Stortford struck the killer blow with only a few minutes remaining.
A neat move on the edge of the box ended with Prestedge teeing the ball up for Gayle, who fired home to win the match for his side and send Levy Green home empty-handed.
Green boss Heath knows his side will need to recover from their exertions quickly if he is to make a triumphant exit from the club against high-flying Dunstable Town on Saturday.
“I think the boys will have a right go on Saturday and we might be able to get a bit of a shock win,” he said.
“But really I’m just looking for another good performance.”
A place in the top-ten of the MSSML Premier Division is up for grabs should Levy bag the three points, but it will be no east task against second-placed Dunstable.