Gallant Wibsey Warriors suffered the agony of losing the BARLA National Cup final deep into injury time as Sharlston Rovers captain Scott Glassell dropped a match-winning goal.

It was a bitter blow for Jason Hirst’s side, who had defied their status as underdogs to push the Pennine League champions all the way before finally being edged out at the death. The scene was nicely set at the Woodlands Memorial Ground in Fylde, with the sun shining and a good crowd waiting in anticipation for the big Yorkshire derby.

Sharlston Rovers warmed up in State of Mind tee-shirts following the presentation to the team earlier this year
Sharlston Warming Up In SOM TeesReport courtesy of Mark Strother (Telegraph and Argus)

Sharlston arrived as red-hot favourites, being previous winners and having recently secured the Premier Division title. But it would have been difficult for many, outside the Wibsey camp that is, to predict the battle royal that was to follow.

The Warriors were in fine form themselves, coming off the back of some fine results that saw them finish sixth in the top-flight table. Sharlston opened the scoring on just four minutes when Tom Wandless found Gareth Davies in space out wide and he then put winger Geoff Hick in at the corner.

The Warriors hit back with some sustained pressure and it was no more than they deserved when Neil Wall showed tremendous strength to hold off a number of would-be tacklers to crash over and make it 4-4. The momentum was with Wibsey and only an illegal ball steal prevented them taking the lead minutes later.

It was a short-lived escape for their Wakefield-based opponents as, on the next play, hooker Kyle Carter dived over to give the Warriors the lead. Simon Sewell stepped up to add the extras and, at 10-4 to Hirst’s team, there was a feeling of an upset in the air.

But on 17 minutes the scores were level again when a neat kick saw Sharlston centre Davies gather before dummying his way to the line, with Danny Glassell successfully converting.

Just minutes later that man Davies was in again when a high up-and-under caused all sorts of problems in the Wibsey defence, allowing him to capitalise and stroll over. Danny Glassell added the goal to see Sharlston out in front at 16-10.

Davies completed a ten-minute hat-trick when Wandless’ cut-out ball put him in the clear and he was able to dive over. At 20-10 the Warriors were in danger of being overpowered but the spirit of coach Hirst’s men was visible for all to see.

Wibsey moved the ball quickly through hands, with full back Mike Derrick’s clever offload finding Wall and he put Jimmy Rodgers over out wide. The vocal Warriors support were then in full cry as Derrick collected a neat chip-kick from Sewell to crash over and reduce the deficit to 20-18 at the break.

Hirst clearly fired up his side at the interval and within minutes they were on the attack, with stand-off Ryan Smith being tackled just short. Prop Chris Vogel then got Wibsey moving with a huge drive that allowed Sewell the time to find Rodgers, who touched down for his second try of the day.

Sewell duly converted to earn a 24-20 advantage and the Wibsey supporters were again dreaming of an upset.
Having taken the lead, it looked like it was to be the Warriors’ day when Sharlston prop Chris Bingham was sin-binned for an illegal ball steal.

However, the underdogs were crucially unable to make their numerical advantage count and were made to pay.

Within minutes of returning to a full complement of players, Sharlston were level at 24-24. Powerful prop Sean Emblem battered the Wibsey defence and Hick took advantage of a disjointed line to scoot over. With the crowd on the edge of their seats and the game finely balanced, it was man of the match Davies who then showed a real piece of class.

Popping up in the middle of the field 65 yards out, Davies broke the line and managed to hand off tackle after tackle before crashing over for his fourth try of the day. However, the Warriors lived up to their name and showed true grit and determination as they battled to the end.

Fine interplay between Sewell, Derrick and Rodgers saw the winger held just short, before the Wibsey crowd were sent wild as some great hands from Mark Darragh and Derrick again enable Smith to score under the posts.

Sewell levelled the scores at 30-30 and the match was poised for a nail-biting finish to an enthralling encounter. The Warriors had a chance when Vogel slipped the ball to Nicholas Walker but the forward had too much to do to reach the line.

Sharlston then hit back, with lively half-back Dean Gamble attacking the Wibsey rearguard.
In the end it fell to Scott Glassell, who – after a stoppage that saw Warriors winger Jamie Brentley need to leave the field – made the space for a one-pointer that took the cup to Wakefield