By Brett McCarten

Kendal County 2

Keswick 1

Westmorland Senior Challenge Cup Final

KENDAL County pulled off a superb late comeback in the Westmorland Senior Challenge Cup final to beat a stunned Keswick side.

Super sub Kevin Pickering’s 92nd minute volley won the game for County, banishing memories of his team’s defeat in the final last season to Ambleside United.

County dominated play from the beginning and Keswick were lucky not to concede a penalty early in the first half when Dan Ferguson’s cross was handled in the area but referee Graham Sill waved away the appeals.

County had another appeal for a spot kick turned down minutes later when Gary Hartley was pulled over by Richard Bannister in the box, but Keswick again went unpunished.

The first clear chance for Keswick came in the 21st minute when Jamie Little’s low free kick found Bannister at the near post, but he could not direct his shot past Phillip King.

Keswick began to get into the game as Gary Thwaites’ cross was almost edged in, but County managed to clear their line.

Minutes later though, Keswick took the lead when Stephen Hilton’s curling free-kick deflected off Hartley before crossing the line.

County had to be on their toes to keep the scoreline at 1-0 as Bannister pounced on a defensive error, before Nathan Dixon put in a last-ditch challenge to nullify the Keswick attack.

Ferguson and Jordan Knowles missed good chances in the second half, while Pickering, who came on for Oliver Wilson, missed a fantastic opportunity to equalise when he fired over from six yards.

Keswick pressed the County defence as well, but Little, Bannister and Andrew Frampton all missed chances to increase their team’s lead.

As the game neared a close, County manager Dave Chambers prayers were answered when Joe Baker cut inside and unleashed a curling left-footed shot in the 90th minute, which Keswick’s Christopher Rowley could only head into his own goal.

Minutes later, Baker flicked on and found Pickering, who drove home the winner in the second minute of injury time to seal the victory for his side, and win the Senior Challenge Cup for the eighth time in County’s history.

After the game, Kendal manager Chambers said: “I’m exhausted. We got out of jail. I’m absolutely delighted for the boys, because we weren’t particularly good in the first half but they responded to what we said.

“Keswick tired towards the end, but the opportunities fell for us and we just took them. That’s football for you.”