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25 YEAR REIGN AND TWO CUP FINALS

A week is a longtime in football, but the past seven days will live long in the memory of Bacup Borough Football Club after they reached their second final of the season with a thrilling penalty shoot out against FC St Helens at the Brian Boys Stadium.


The previous week borough had already secured their place in the final of the Edward Case Cup with a commanding 4-0 win against Staffordshire side Abbey Hulton United, and were hoping for more of the same in the Macron Cup semi-final.


A few days of good weather leading up to the game meant that the conditions were perfect for the occasion, and with a big crowd expected to be heading up Cowtoot Lane the stage was set.



Brent Peters saluting the Bacup Borough faithful


Brent Peters' team had a few additional days to prepare for the FC St Helens game after the midweek league fixture with Ashton Town was postponed due to waterlogged pitch.


Mason Fallon was recalled into the starting lineup at left back and there were also starts for Ross Mallinson in the heart of the defence and Emmanuel Ujahchuku playing down the right.


Borough got off to a nervous start and it was the visitors who could’ve easily drawn first blood on 2 minutes. The ball was played over the top by FC St Helens into the path of Brad Green who found himself in acres of space. And if not for a timely intervention from Mallinson who was able to step across the path of Green it may have been a different story.


FC St Helens certainly started the better of the two sides. They were getting into their stride with a good range of passing and movement in the final third. Paul Sweeny and Jack Ball were finding the space through the middle and in turn finding the runs of their leading goalscorer Joe Barker who already had 26 goals to his credit.


On 6 minutes the Merseyside club had the breakthrough. A freekick from the right was delivered with pinpoint accuracy by Ball and Joe Barker was the first to react with an intelligent run across the front of the borough goal and he was in position to head home giving Mason Walker the borough goalkeeper no chance.



Ben Langley - Scott Johnston - Ross Mallinson


It was a nervous start for borough who were finding it difficult to get into any sort of rhythm or momentum. The two sides had met previously in the league with the visitors taking all three points in a 3-2 win. So Brent Peters and his side were well aware of the danger FC St Helens possessed.


Kyle Siddle playing down the left created borough’s first real chance on 20 minutes when his shot was deflected out for a corner. On reflection it did look like the ball had struck the arm of the FC St Helens defender but the referee was having none of it.


The nerves that were being felt by the players were beginning to transcend across to the supporters who at times couldn’t bear to watch as freekick after freekick from Jack Ball were being executed with precision into the six yard box.


On 25 minutes Mason Walker pulled off one of the saves of the season to keep borough in the game. Another excellent piece of skill down the right caused all kinds of problems for the borough defence, and as the ball came into the box Walker was on hand to save with his chest from point blank range. It was a save that would turn out to be crucial.


Borough had a late chance in the first half with Toby Wright almost getting himself on the end of a freekick, but a lack of possession in the final third and nerves would need settling at the break by the borough boss. The fact that it was only 1-0 gave the large number of home supporters confidence that borough could turn this around in the second half.



Goalscorer Kyle Siddle can't hold back his delight


In the second half borough started strong. Joey Fallon played a delightful ball over the top for SIddle who was flagged for offside. It was a close call by the assistant referee, but at least it was a more promising and effective piece of play by the Valley club.


On 57 minutes Sam Fitton went close. Working alongside Gervin and Hewitt through the middle, Fitton was able to find a good position from a Gervin freekick, but could only watch on as his shot went high and wide. It was positive play and borough were starting to knock on the FC St Helens door in search of the equaliser.


With 30 minutes left on the clock Brent Peters made his first move of the afternoon which would turn out to be a masterstroke. He replaced Emmanuel Ujahchuku with the young and energetic Jay Hayward who on several occasions this season has produced the goods in games.


Hayward straight away was making penetrating runs down the borough right and asking serious questions of the FC St Helens full back John Edgerton. As the borough continued to probe and stretch the visitors the borough boss made another telling decision by bringing on Scott Johnston in midfield, a recent signing from Altrincham.



Joey Fallon a constant rock in the heart of the Bacup Borough defence


It would be the combination of Hayward and Johnston that would unlock the door to get borough level and send the Brian Boys Stadium into a fit of pure elation. On 75 minutes Hayward played a nice one, two with Johnston who clipped the ball over the top and into the feet of Hayward who had continued his run. He then drove towards the byline before looking up and playing the ball back into the six yard box where Kyle Siddle was waiting to slot home with power and precision. It was a finish of real quality as Siddle had made a gut busting run from the left to arrive bang on cue and deliver with purpose. The entire squad celebrated and now there was a belief around the stadium that borough could go on and get the win.


Both sides continued to have exchanges with FC St Helens going desperately close when a header from a corner deflected off the crossbar. It was a heart in the mouth moment at the end as the referee eventually blew his whistle to take the game straight to a penalty shoot out.


Borough had already been involved in a previous penalty shoot out with their victory in the second round to Steeton AFC so the feeling coming into this one was good.


The visitors stepped up first and dispatched beyond Walker with confidence. Borough’s leading goalscorer Toby Wright was the first to stride up to calmly make it level.



Sheer delight at the Brian Boys Stadium as Bacup Borough book their place in the final


Both FC St Helens and borough converted their second penalties with ease and the game was on a knife edge.


FC St Helens missed their third penalty when the ball was dragged wide of Walker's right hand post giving borough the opportunity to get themselves in front for the first time in the afternoon. Callum Hewitt kept his composure under pressure to side foot the ball beyond Joe Mason and edge his side closer to the final.


The visitors netted again with Scott Johnston doing likewise keeping the pressure well and truly on the Merseyside club. As the FC St Helens player walked up to take their final penalty of five there was definitely a nervousness about the approach.


The ball was struck with power towards Walker's bottom right hand side. Walker guessed the right way but the ball managed to squeeze past borough’s number one, but came off the inside of the post and away from goal. It was a moment of sheer delight. The ground erupted, the players were celebrating with supporters and the little man inside the borough dugout couldn’t hold back the tears.



Celebrations were enjoyed by everybody - Bacup Ultras


For 25 years Brent Peters has tended to this club and in his anniversary year he has managed to guide this young vibrant team to not one, but two finals in the space of seven days. A wonderful achievement and one that will take its place in the history books.


Managing to get onto the pitch at the final whistle I was able to capture the atmosphere of the occasion and gather the emotion of the borough boss. Surrounded by his players and full of pure joy, he said; “I’m emotional. The players have done me proud. They’ve done the town proud. We weren’t at our best today but we’ve done it.”


It was the first time I’d ever seen the borough boss drop his guard. We are used to seeing the fiery nature of Brent inside his technical area kicking every single ball, today we saw the real Brent.


A manager who for a large proportion of his 25 years at the club alongside Debra O’Connor has battled to keep the club alive. Today was his day to bathe in the glory of reaching two finals.



Players and staff soak up the victory after a dramatic penalty shoot out


We also managed to catch a few words with SkySports, Soccer Saturday Reporter, Peter Smith who many years has been a fond follower of Brent Peters and Bacup Borough. He said; “I’m going to praise Brent Peters if I can, because I’ve got him branded at non league level as old school. I call him good school. Because two non league finals in the space of a week, to come from behind against St Helens, a good side. I reckon that there’s nobody who knows more about non league at this level than Brent.


“The fact that at the club you’ve got the longest serving manager on the planet it’s a great achievement.”


The celebrations continued late into the night. Borough through hard work and dedication had reached the final of this Macron Cup 2023.


Brent and his team will now finish off the league campaign and look forward to the finals which take place on the 1st and 8th May.


First up will be the Edward Case Cup against Ellesmere Rangers with the venue yet to be confirmed. And a week later borough will travel to the home of Chorley FC to face strong opposition in premier division side Congleton Town who recently made it to the semi-final of the FA Vase.


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