IT felt as if it had been scripted at Yaxley on Friday night. With 120 minutes of the Hunts Senior Cup final all but played, and with St Neots Town and Huntingdon Town drawing 0-0, Saints’ manager Iain Parr threw on fans’ favourite Adrian Sear – and it was the midfielder, nursing a reset broken nose, who slammed home the winning penalty when the game went to a shoot-out.

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It is sometimes a cruel game, football: Huntingdon, from two divisions below St Neots, had matched their opponents all evening and at times had out-played them. But Sear had insisted he should be a substitute earlier on in the day – and it was then that maybe the seeds of the dramatic finale were sowed.

Parr admitted afterwards he had only put Sear on to take a penalty. Asked the question, he said: “Yes – he is an experienced player and we put him on for that little bit of experience.

“It was a tough night and we did well,” he continued. “It was what I thought it would be against a hard-working Huntingdon side.

“We had a good starting line-up out and we had a lot of young lads and as a game it is what we thought it would be. I thought it would be won by the odd goal.

“I thought it was an equal game, both teams had chances and it always looked like it might go to penalties.

“I’m pleased. I know a lot of the Huntingdon players and the pitch wasn’t great but both teams tried to play a bit of football and it was the fair final we thought it would be.”

It was a long and cold evening for the 300 or so fans that made the trip to Yaxley’s Leading Drove ground on the edge of the Fens. Hopes were high among the Huntingdon contingent of a day for the underdogs, especially as Hunts FA rules had determined that many of the Saints’ recent acquisitions would be unavailable for selection – but the Saints captain, Gavin Hoyte, beat an injury to make the starting line-up, which also included the excellent Lewis Hilliard, who was brilliant throughout.

There were decent chances for both sides in the first 90 minutes, with the game swinging this way and that. Hilliard and young midfielder Ryan Sharman had a couple of early shots before Huntingdon’s Spanish goalkeeper Enol Ordonez made an excellent double save. Ordonez had a few nervy moments later, but was superb at corners, punching many of them clear to safety and holding any that he felt confident to do so. Stuart Eason tested Jack Giddens with a shot soon after.

And so it went. Hilliard for St Neots and Ben Seymour-Shove (twice) went close for Huntingdon – but it remained goalless.

In the second half, Jay Davies shot over the top, Hilliard had another free kick saved and Seymour-Shove flighted a free-kick over the wall but just shy of the post. The Huntingdon captain, Ricky Dear, went close and so did Declan Rogers, whose free kick was palmed wide by the Saints goalkeeper.

Huntingdon had their best period late in the second half but failed to make it count. Another Rogers free kick in time-added-on was slammed into the wall. A last-ditch challenge by Victor Torres denied Hilliard before extra time.

Ordonez made the save of a game from a Jack Werndly strike in the first half of extra time, while Arthur Lee also went close, and Eason put one header over and another into the legs of Giddens from the back post – that was close.

So much toil, no end result. Dear also headed wide and substitute Niks Savalneiks headed the ball straight at Giddens. Ollie Medwynter also had a shot saved by the St Neots goalkeeper.

Another Huntingdon substitute, Dave Townsend, had a major chance in the first minute of the second half but put the ball over the top of Giddens’ crossbar.

Giddens also made a great one-on-one save from Eason and a final Rogers’ free kick was headed wide by Dear.

And so it went to penalties: Werndly scored for Saints but Jamie Graham hit a post. Advantage St Neots. Hilliard buried his and so did Medwynter for 2-1 from four spot kicks.

Then Chris Manangu missed his for St Neots with Eason scoring his go give Huntingdon hope at 2-2.

But Ryan Sharman made it 3-2 before Rogers’ effort was saved by Giddens with Sear stepping up to bring an end to proceedings.

Ricky Marheineke, the Huntingdon manager, was devastated – after winning promotion from Division One of the United Counties League in his first full season, he has guided his team to fourth place in the Premier Division this time around. Yet he had still told The Hunts Post this was the biggest game of his managerial career so far.

Later he tweeted: “Tonight is a night to be proud of Huntingdon Town Football Club. Yes we lost but great performance. Next year is our year.”

St Neots: Jack Giddens, Jordy Nkinga, Arthur Lee, Ryan Sharman, Jordan Gent, Gavin Hoyte, Dion Sembie-Ferris (Junior Moya), Jay Davies (Chris Manangu), Jack Werndly, Ed Adjei (Adrian Sear), Lewis Hilliard.

Huntingdon: Enol Ordanez, Ollie Medwynter, Dan Moyes, Declan Rogers, Victor Torres, Ricky Dear, Ben Seymour-Shove (Dave Townsend), Jack Warwick (Niks Savlaneiks), Stuart Eason, Jamie Graham, Jamie Blackwell (Ashley Yeomans).

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