Hinckley’s Leicester Road FC battled to an excellent 1-0 home victory over Premiership Wolves in a special memorial fixture to honour a local football coaching/managerial legend.
A first-half bullet header from winger Amarvir Sandhu was all that separated the two teams and saw LRFC lift the ‘John Perkins’ Memorial Trophy – played to commemorate a man known to most as ‘JP’ who put Leicestershire semi-professional football on the national map with his ability to build highly efficient and successful teams based on local players.
He was also a senior Academy coach at Wolverhampton Wanderers FC for 10 seasons – hence this memorial fixture against their U23s – which was organised by LRFC manager Neil Lyne who played under John Perkins for his all-conquering Leicester United team in the Southern Premier League, before they were both snapped up by the iconic Brian Clough for Nottingham Forest in 1989.
JP went on to have 27 highly successful coaching years in the professional game bringing young players through the academy and into the first team – at Forest, Wolves, Portsmouth, Derby County and latterly Stoke City – until he died in October 2016, aged 69, after a short illness.
The players from both teams led a minute’s applause at the start of the game and this kindred spirit continued throughout a hard fought and evenly contested game that LRFC did very well to edge. Both sides had early chance with Wolves dangerman Otasowie firing just wide on 5 mins and LRFC’s Jordan Burrows the wrong side of the post after good link play with Jarred Acton and Nuno Gomes.
Then on 14 mins LRFC keeper Will Highland was quickly off his line to smother a shot from Wolves’ Hanne after Otasowie played him clean through. LRFC were growing into the game however and on 20 mins it was Gomes clean through and just thwarted after a neat, threaded pass from Walters.
Highland again had to react quickly on 23 mins to block Wolves winger Stevenson’s goal bound effort, but on 33 mins a pinpoint cross from the right by Burrows saw Sandhu (just on for Nick Hawkins who picked up a knock) arrive late in the box and power his header into the top corner.
As you would expect, Wolves rallied immediately and forward Taylor-Perry glanced a header that Highland did well to get hands on, but LRFC then broke swiftly with Burrows and Sandhu again combining well before the latter’s fierce cross shot was turned just wide.
Right on half time LRFC’s Callum Earls stung the Wolves keeper’s fingertips with a dipping free kick and although Otasowie went close again after a mazy run down the left it was the home team who went in 1-0 up and full of confidence.
Wolves’ youngsters came out with much more purpose and intent second half. Centre half Sanderson headed over on 48 mins when well placed and 10 mins later Highland smartly got down low to his right to fingertip a curling free kick by Taylor-Perry just around the post.
Three quick Wolves corners followed in succession, but some resolute LRFC defending and blocking – as they held their shape and discipline well – ensured Wolves continued to be denied and frustrated. On 70 mins the elusive Sandhu again went close for LRFC after a defence splitting pass from Joseph Lyne and on 80 mins centre forward Matt Langham got right behind a left foot volley that only just whistled past the far post.
Wolves’ Samuels looked lively when he came on for the last 10 mins, but he scuffed his shot when well placed for the visitor’s last chance of the game and LRFC saw out injury time to record a well-earned and famous victory. So, it was Leicester Road FC who lifted the John Perkins Memorial Trophy at the end of a pulsating game – and rather fittingly it was presented by JP’s son Ben Perkins (age 19).
Neil Lyne summed up the occasion when he said: “This was a fitting tribute to a passionate man who dedicated his life to football. The players from both Wolves FC and Leicester Road FC were a credit to themselves and their respective clubs, symbolising the values and ethos of JP. Knowing the man as I did, he would have been proud.”
LRFC Starting X1: Will Highland, Simon Alcott, Nick Hawkins, Callum Earls, Jarred Acton, Jack Harrison, Marlon Walters (c), Joseph Lyne, Jordan Burrows, Nuno Gomes, Matt Langham. Subs: Ricky Blewitt (GK), Amarvir Sandhu, Niki Uppall, Roshan Mall, Owen Whitehouse, Ben Humphreys.
LRFC play another commemorative ’JP’ match on Tuesday 24th July, kick off 7.30pm, against Stoke City’s talented U23s.