INVITATION CUP FINAL
Ely City 1
Cambridge City 4
Those of an Ely City persuasion will forever look back on the 2016/17 campaign with fond memories.
Under the guidance of manager Brady Stone and his assistant Martin Grey, The Robins have shocked many — reaching the last 16 of The Buildbase FA Vase for the first time in the club’s history, as well as comfortably steering clear of relegation trouble upon their return to the Thurlow Nunn League’s top flight.
But Monday evening’s county cup final against higher-league Cambridge City proved to be a step too far for Ely, who despite a spirited second-half showing, came up short in their bid for a trophy that would have added extra gloss to an impressive season.
But despite the defeat, Stone remained in upbeat mood.
“Of course we would have taken a season like this if we had been offered it at the start,” said the boss, who came off the bench during Saturday’s 3-1 home loss at the hands of Felixstowe & Walton United.
“Safety, fifth round of The Vase and a cup final at The Abbey, you cannot complain about that.
“The boys have been fantastic, but we need to go to Gorleston now (Saturday, 3pm) and finish the season properly.
“We do not want to end on a whimper because the season we have had deserves much more than that.”
Cambridge City may have been relegated down to Step Four — one level above Ely — on Saturday, but Robbie Nightingale’s men showed no ill effects against Stone’s charges.
Lee Stevenson, Darren Foxley and Ollie Snaith all fired off the target before Ely goalkeeper Harry Reynolds was beaten in the 37th minute.
Emmanuel Osei’s effort rebounded off the post for Harry Norman, whose rebounded shot deflected off Ely defender Oliver Brookes and on to the crossbar before crossing the line.
Norman also scored Cambridge’s second goal just before the break with the outside of his right boot, before Matt Foy made it 3-0 in the 55th minute with a low finish from the edge of the box.
Ely refused to give up the ghost, though, and they got back into the game in the 68th minute via a looping Ash Walter header.
Ely forward Sam Reed then saw his lobbed shot bounce agonisingly over the bar, while up the other end Osei smashed a penalty too high after he had been fouled by Brookes.
Yet, it mattered little for The Lilywhites because with six minutes remaining substitute Josh Lowe was on hand to turn in Foxley’s cross.
Ely: Reynolds, Jeffrey, Alsop, Griffin, Williams, Brookes, Enaro (Hunt 83), Walter, Reed, Darling (Theobald 76), Simpson (Neal 59)
Journal Man of the Match: Sam Reed
n Victory at Gorleston on Saturday will guarantee a 13th-placed finish for Ely this term, but defeat could drop down to 15th.