Magic of the cup that has endured for four decades

Since first being played for at the start of the eighties the Lester Charity Cup has remained one of Wolverhampton's most popular football knockouts.

Wombourne North, 1999-2000 winners of the Lester Cup.
Wombourne North, 1999-2000 winners of the Lester Cup.

The Beacon Sunday League's flagship competition should have been celebrating its 40th anniversary this year but the Covid19 pandemic has resulted, as with all local grassroots football, in its cancellation, writes Dave McLean.

It was in the 1980/81 campaign that the LCC, named after league co-founder and current chairman Brian Lester, was first played for by all member clubs.

And, over the past four decades the competition has produced many great highlights on the field, while at the same time raising funds for several local causes, including the well established JW Hunt Cup knockout that raises much needed funds for the Beacon Centre for the Blind.

The first ever LCC final in 1981 was memorable in itself as a formidable Roseville outfit caused a major upset when defeating first division champions Wobaston 4-2.

That season, Roseville stormed to the second division title with an impressive 100 per cent league record, winning all 14 league games and hitting 120 goals.

In the final they came up against first division champions Wobaston FC who themselves had dominated their respective league programme, dropping just one point (in those days it was two points for a win).

On cup final day, Roseville, who also lifted the Clinton Cup that same season, stole the limelight with goals from Steve Holcroft, Mick North, Ray Lester and Ian Holmes, with Craig Rudge, brother of former Wolves midfielder Dale, and Richard Nightingale responding.

Tense and dramatic sums up many a LCC final, with extra time required to decide five finals, the first in 1985 when Oakhill FC, who became the first club to retain the LCC, eventually ran out comfortable 5-1 winners following an extra 30 minutes.

If there was a final that will live long in the memory it will surely be the 2014 encounter that saw Bushbury EMB Rovers edge home 4-3 against a equally impressive Mount Pleasant Wombourne side, the last one to go to extra time to decide the outcome.

After breaking the deadlock, Wombourne were pegged back, before taking a 3-1 advantage with only seven minutes of normal time remaining.

Remarkably, Bushbury well and truly showed their battling qualities by scoring twice in the final two minutes, before clinching the silverware with a fourth match winning goal midway through the additional 30 minutes. Kyle Matthews and Thomas Slade bagged doubles for Bushbury, with Simon Baugh (two) and Curtis Cocking replying.

Another final that caught the eye was the second of three such LCC wins in five years by Perton Village in 2003. Goal hero Adrian Rickuss notched a memorable treble as Perton edged a 3-2 triumph over Wednesfield Wanderers.

Rob Pooler had replied with a fine double for the Wanderers and he also picked up the league's Golden Boot award that season, notching no fewer than 50 goals, including a purple patch of 17 in five LCC ties.

The only final not to produce a goal in 120 minutes football came in 1991 when Sedgley Crown and Oldbury Sports' clash ended in statement before the former eventually took the glory following a penalty shoot out.

Over the years, several non league grounds have hosted the Lester Cup, including Marston Sports ground, and Bilston College in the early days. In more recent times, finals have been staged at Aldersley Stadium, Willenhall Town FC, Wolverhampton Casuals and AFC Wulfrunians' Castlecroft Stadium.

The latter was the final venue for Dynamo Dudley's history making achievement as they became the first league outfit to chalk up three consecutive LCC triumphs.

After sneaking home 3-2 against Springvale Steelers Academy in 2016, the Dynamo went on to complete the treble after hitting both FC Premier and Sandwell Action 6-1 and 6-0 respectively the following two seasons.

Other LCC facts and figures: Most finals, Perton Village (five); Most wins (three), Perton Village, Dynamo Dudley, Castle Youth (also Cottage Spring Castle); Biggest margin win (seven), Bilston Community College 8 Bentley Eagles 1 (1995).

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