MATCH REPORT: AFC Hoxne cruise into Portman Road final

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SUFFOLK FA JUNIOR CUP SEMI-FINAL: AFC Hoxne 4 Spexhall Huntsman & Hounds 1

Two goals in each half at Bungay Town FC ensured AFC Hoxne comfortably set up a cup final date at Ipswich Town’s Portman Road ground on May 24 with divisional rivals Henley Athletic (who beat Benhall St Mary this afternoon).

Alex Blakely cooly dispatched two penalties while Robert Peake fired in twice from open play while their opponents, from near Halesworth, were only able to reply once, with a scrappy finish just after the break having given them brief hope.

After a dominant opening, which had seen the Suffolk and Ipswich League (SIL) Division One side force four corners in the opening 10 minutes, the tricky Robert Varela was wiped out by a poorly timed challenge from Trevor Chinery, gifting the opening goal. Blakely made no mistake from the spot to ensure a deserved lead.

Spexhall had wasted a rare chance before that when Danny Milne sliced a half volley off target.

Hoxne’s advantage came close to being doubled when Varela went on a jinking run Varela down the left and his cut back was flicked goalwards by Liam Smith, only for it to be deflected wide with a last-ditch block at the near post.

It was 2-0 in the 42nd minute though when a Shaine De’ath free-kick deep on the left caused mayhem in the Spexhall box and Peake was on hand to turn in from close range.

It took until stoppage time in the first half for Spexhall to register their first shot on target, and they should have been able to make it count. Shaun Wigley broke through down the left but shot straight at Hoxne goalkeeper Max Lock, who narrowed the angle well.

There was no doubt that Hoxne deserved their 2-0 lead at the break though, after a dominant half.

Spexhall brought on two substitutes at the break and changed their formation to 3-5-2, which seemed to have breathed new life into their play right from the restart.

They soon had a great chance to pull a goal back, but sub Bob Glover was guilty of taking far too heavy a touch when clear of the defence.

Hoxne were soon threatening a third, with the outside of the post saving Spexhall before Peake planted a weak effort at Levi Baster, following a great lung-bursting run down the right by half-time substitute Aaron Day.

But it was at the other end that the next goal came, when Spexhall’s Rio Regini-Peterson forced in a corner from close range, after Copeman Nick’s far post header from Ryan Coleman’s 57th minute corner came back out into his path.

It had Spexhall’s following believing they could stage a comeback, but Peake and Varela stepped things up at the other end, with a series of twists and turns that left their markers’ heads spinning.

It took a fortuitous penalty for Jamie Scales’ side to stretch their advantage back to two goals though.

A Varela drive from midfielder fed Peake who looked to play the ball in behind the defence, but his chipped pass was stopped by James Pavitt’s arm, with the referee deeming, perhaps harshly, that he had illegally lifted his hand to the ball.

Blakely repeated his trick of outfoxing Baster for the second time, sending his 73rd minute kick into the left-hand corner, beyond the ‘keeper’s dive.

There were more problems for Spexhall to deal with when Hoxne’s top scorer, Brett Bellamy, with 15 goals in 15 appearances in all competitions, made his comeback from injury.

And with 10 minutes of their third goal, Spexhall’s final dream was over as Peake added his second, pouncing on a defensive error to slide a low effort under Baster.

Substitute Kiefer Bultitude forced the Spexhall glovesman to block at his near post before it looked like they would end the game with a consolation goal up the other end, only for Jon Bourman to execute a superb sliding challenge.

AFC Hoxne: Lock, A Bourman, Denney, De’ath, J Bourman, Tricket, Smith, Balls, Peake, Blakely, Varela. Subs: Ward, Bultitude, Bellamy, Betts, Day.

Diss Express Man of The Match: Robert Peake. Two goals and was just too hot for Spexhall to handle. Will be a key man in the final.