Football: Chapple the kingmaker

BY CONRAD LEACH

KINGSTONIAN WON the FA Trophy for the first time in their history in their first final in this competition, thanks to the full-back Tarkan Mustafa's goal and a great deal more of the possession.

This is the non-League equivalent of the FA Cup final, which takes place next week between Newcastle and Manchester United, and if any superstitious Newcastle fans were watching they won't have enjoyed it, as Forest Green, in black and white, lost to the team in red. But this was a deserved victory for Kingstonian, whose manager Geoff Chapple in turn won this competition for the fourth time

Yet a game at Wembley wouldn't be complete without its own small tale of heartbreak and, in this case, it was the Gloucestershire side Forest Green and, in particular, Marc McGregor who will be left thinking what might have been. With 18 minutes gone, he made his way into the Kingstonian penalty box, felt his shirt tugged by Matt Crossley but refused to go to the floor. The referee, Alan Wilkie, played the advantage and McGregor saw his subsequent shot palmed away by Steve Farrelly. That, as it turned out, was Forest Green's best chance, but naturally both managers had opposing views on the incident, with Forest Green's Frank Gregan calling it "a blatant penalty" while Chapple felt there was no case to answer.

Kingstonian were favourites to win - mainly because they finished four places higher than Forest Green in the Conference - but they only marginally justified their status during the first half, as Forest Green sought to strike another blow for underdogs at Wembley with their own counter-attacking brand of football which so nearly paid dividends through McGregor.

Kingstonian responded with their own spell of pressure and, after 28 minutes, a cross by the man of the match Geoff Pitcher had to be pushed out from under his crossbar by Justin Shuttlewood, but Mustafa could only jab his shot wide. However Mustafa atoned for that miss in the best possible way by putting Kingstonian in the lead with only five minutes of the second half gone. Mark Harris hit a long ball deep into the Forest Green area that Shuttlewood failed to hold under pressure and, as the ball spilled out, the former Barnet right-back drove his shot into the net from 10 yards out.

Forest Green's response was muted as the goal seemed to sap all their remaining energy while Kingstonian thrived, leaving Chapple to enthuse afterwards: "It's a milestone for Kingstonian."

Gregan, a Newcastle fan, will be back to watch his other team next week, but didn't try to disguise his sadness at losing. "This is a real disappointment," he said, "sadly it didn't happen for us today."

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