London pub overcomes last year’s champions The Liver Vaults to win 2018 BT Sport Pub Cup
Hackney pub The Gun is £5,000 better off after its football team pulled off a stunning victory in the final of this year’s BT Sport Pub Cup.
The pub will also benefit from a free BT Sport subscription for a year thanks to the team’s win over last year’s winners, The Liver Vaults, at Leicester City’s King Power stadium.
And a venue that has seen its own share of football fairy tales proved to be the perfect location for a match that had it all – controversy, goals, red cards, moments of individual brilliance and, to conclude, a nerve-jangling penalty shootout.
The sides met after making it through two rounds of qualifying that saw 1,600 pub teams register to play and 64 picked out of the hat to take part at events at professional grounds across the country throughout May.
The final at Leicester was the showpiece – and it didn’t disappoint.
After being transported to the ground in coaches fit for Premier League players, the sides were given a team-talk by their celebrity managers for the day: Robbie Savage (The Gun) and John Hartson (Liver Vaults).
And it was The Gun who went off with a bang, dominating the opening 20 minutes and forcing a fine point-blank range save from Liver Vaults number one Philly Thompson.
As the game went on The Liver Vaults settled and started to play with the confidence of champions. They took the lead towards the end of the half when livewire striker Jamie McDonald rounded Gun keeper Eden Cooke and calmly slotted home.
The side from Liverpool continued to apply the pressure after the break but were unable to find a way past Cooke again.
The chances of the trophy heading north once more looked all but guaranteed when The Gun were reduced to 10 men. Defender Tom Bonner was deemed to be the last man when he prevented McDonald having a run on goal.
Somehow The Gun kept The Vaults at Bay, with the woodwork twice, Cooke and his defenders, along with some profligate finishing, helping their cause.
Then came the moment that shifted the momentum. McDonald, already on a yellow card, was late with a challenge and was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence. The sides were now equal, and it wasn’t long before the scores would be too.
The Gun gained confidence and started to create chances of their own. Wild celebrations followed when Josep Estol bundled home from close range following a corner, with Liver Vaults claiming a foul on the keeper.
Neither side could find a winner in the remaining few minutes, which meant the final would be settled by spot kicks.
Liver Vaults blinked first and missed which gave Charlie Mann the chance to convert The Gun’s fifth penalty and ensure the trophy would join them on the coach back to the capital. He duly obliged to start the celebrations.
After the match, Gun licensee Nick Stephens said he was thrilled at the victory: “We were tired and dejected at half-time but with some inspired words – not from me – we’ve done it. It’s unbelievable and we can’t wait to get back to the pub.
“The Liver Vaults are a really good side and it was a great game of football. It’s unbelievable to win it, the whole thing has been brilliant.”
Robbie Savage added: “Going down to 10 men they showed immense, character, heart and desire to get back in the game and them win it on penalties. They showed greats and, on the night, they deserved it.”
This year is the second time the tournament has been held with the number of grassroots teams taking part up from eight to 64. Heats took place all over the country at grounds such as Goodison Park, Hillsborough and the National Football Centre at St George’s Park.
Bruce Cuthbert, BT Sport’s Director Commercial Customers, said: “I thought it was a brilliant final with lots of drama – it had everything. The tournament is bigger and better and you can see how much it means to people taking part.”