Last May, nobody had ever heard of Moreton Hall Raiders. Roll forward a year and everyone knows who the Raiders are now! That’s no surprise when you consider what this incredible young team has done to take the football world by storm. The boys in blue have shown time and again throughout this season that they are the best around. This fact was reinforced on Sunday morning, when Raiders capped a superb campaign with another trophy as they beat IVR in a tightly-contested County Cup final. The pressure was all on the league champions as they went into this game as clear favourites. IVR were primed and ready to play the game of their lives; determined to make it more of a contest than in their two heavy league defeats against the Raiders earlier in the season. This game was not one for the football purists, but it was a great battle. The pitch was less than fitting for the occasion and this made it difficult for the Raiders to play their usual game. After a solid start by our boys, credit is due for IVR, who showed desire to get forward and take the game to their opponents. IVR went ahead with their first real chance on 9 minutes after a good move and neat finish from close range. The Raiders players knew they were now in a game, but there was still plenty of time to turn it around. Not used to being behind, the Raiders now had to balance pushing for an equaliser with keeping things tight at the back. Sure enough, the equaliser came on 20 minutes when a Parker free kick landed at the feet of man of the match Finley Deeks. After a neat piece of control, ‘The Moreton Hall Modric’ swivelled in the box and smashed his shot in at the near post. Relief all round. The first half reverse was complete in the 26th minute when Raiders were awarded another free-kick in Taylor Parker territory. Parker always scores free kicks when he visits Haverhill…and he certainly stepped up this time! His powerful drive arrowed straight into the corner and the ‘keeper stood no chance. An incredible goal that would grace any cup final, and one that ensured Raiders went into halftime with a 2-1 lead. Cup finals are for winning, and it doesn’t matter how. The Raiders were living proof of this old football cliché in the second half of this game. They created several chances to break away, but IVR had nothing to lose and kept pushing for an equaliser. The Raiders players showed incredible grit and determination to hold out, but conceded on 52 minutes as IVR drew level at 2-2. Suddenly you could sense the nerves on the sidelines as the momentum started to shift. But our boys’ strength of character kicked in, as they flew into tackles and blocks and ran as hard as they could to see the game out. 2-2 it finished, which was probably a fair reflection of the game overall. But, of course, that meant that this final would be decided by the dreaded penalty shootout… Some parents felt sick. Some needed to sit down. Some couldn’t bear to watch. Others just used their nervous energy to cheer on the boys. But there was nothing we could do. It was now all down to five brave Raiders. We needn’t have worried though because, as they have done all season, the boys did themselves and the whole Raiders family extremely proud. One by one, Parker, Deeks, Gooderham, and Hibbard stepped forward to take their penalties. Meanwhile, the magnificent Horler was performing heroics in goal to leave Raiders 3-2 up as Hugo Andrews came forward for the decisive spot-kick. The ice-cool Andrews stepped up and smashed the ball into the top corner as if he was just having a kickabout in the park! It was an amazing show of calmness under pressure, which was celebrated in unison by the squad, coaches, parents, grandparents and relatives on the sidelines. The Raiders had done it! They’d won the cup. They’d won the double! It was such a joy to see the smiles and proud faces all around as the Raiders deservedly took their moment in the limelight. They received their medals and joined together for a trophy lift that will live long in their memories - and ours too, no doubt. And so ends the most amazing of stories. It’s an inspiring story of a brand new team, made up of talented young footballers with a most phenomenal spirit. It was that very spirit that saw them through to a dramatic victory in this cup final. From day one, these coaches and this group of boys have formed a strong bond and a sense of togetherness. In fact, they’ve brought us all together, as one big Raiders family. The Raiders have ended their season on a high; they’ve ended the season as double winners. Something tells me this story might just need another chapter… UP THE RAIDERS!