The BT Sport Pub Cup 2018 got off to a dramatic start with a nail-biting penalty shootout required to separate Putney’s Fox & Hounds and The Griffin from Claygate.
Striker Duncan Culley was the hero as he fired in the winning kick after the final had ended goalless between two sides who has also drawn a blank when they met in the group stages.
The final followed two closely fought pools with Clerkenwell’s The Horseshoe and The Oak from Thurrock also making it to the semi-final stage.
The Horseshoe’s landlord Rob Madigan (below) said he was proud of his team, which is formed of players who represent various London-based supporter club teams.
He said: “They all come to meet in the pub and have a drink after games and at meetings. We enjoyed it and we played well to get in the semi-final but they (The Fox & Hounds) deserved it. We’ve got a few stories to take back to the pub now and we will try again next year.”
The games were played out in glorious sunshine, with The Tudor Arms, Watford; The Smugglers Return, Worthing; and The Kenton in Hackney completing the line-up in the groups.
The Smugglers proved their keenness to get out on the Loftus Road pitch by arriving more than four hours before kick-off.
Former England winger and QPR legend Andy Sinton (above, sharing a Smugglers moment) was on hand to watch the action and present the trophy to the winners. He was impressed by what he saw.
“It’s lively and it’s competitive. There’s been some good individual play, some good goals and some great saves.
“There’s nothing better than being able to run around and play with your mates at a good standard, and the standard has been really good.”
Ultimately though it was The Fox & Hounds who led the celebrations.
Matchwinner Duncan said: “Winning is everything, everything else is just an excuse. We are delighted to get through and can’t wait to play at St George’s Park – what a place to play.”
More regional qualifiers will take place at Goodison Park, The Hawthorn’s, Bournemouth’s Vitality stadium, Easter Road, Hillsborough and The Den, to see who will join the Fox & Hounds in Burton, where the tournament becomes an 11-a-side event. Two finalists will emerge to play in the final at Leicester’s King Power stadium on June 2.
The winning side will receive £5,000 of equipment and a free BT Sport subscription for a year for its pub.
We’ll keep you updated throughout on these pages and on our Twitter feed.