Essex and Suffolk Border League premier division

LITTLE Oakley were crowned league champions after a hard-fought contest against Hatfield Peverel.

They were quickly out of the starting blocks and their nerves were settled when they took the lead after five minutes.

A cross into the penalty area saw Jordan Heath challenge Hurst, in the Peverel goal.

In the melee, Heath was quickest to react to toe-poke the ball home.

Soon after, a through ball saw Harry Parkes clash with Hurst, outside the penalty area, which saw the Oakley man injured and receive a caution for his reaction to the challenge.

Parkes took no further part and was replaced by Shaun Kioussis, forcing Oakley to reshuffle.

Midway through the half, the Acorns' defence was caught flat-footed and there was a race for the ball between Long, of Peverel, and Tom Williams, in the Oakley goal.

Williams got there first and cleared the danger.

Heath was brought down on the edge of the penalty area and Jake Kioussis struck the ball well but his effort was turned round the post by Hurst.

The Oakley midfield of Rory Harman, Stephen Polley and Mark Palmer gave Peverel no time on the ball but, despite their attacking prowess, they were unable to break down a stubborn defence.

Towards the end of the half, Jake Kioussis swung in a corner for Lewis Wood to head down and the bounce took the ball over the bar.

The start of the second half saw Oakley on the attack, forcing consecutive corners.

However, once again, the Peverel defence stood firm.

Midway through the half, Peverel had a glorious opportunity to draw level when a cross was met by Long at point-blank range but the quick reactions of Williams saw him not only block the effort but gather the ball in and out of harms way.

This effort spurred the home side on and they had their best spell of the game but could not break through Oakley’s defensive ranks of Nathan Kioussis, Wood, Ben Hammond and Shaun Kioussis.

At the other end, Heath was starting to get the better of the home defence and when he beat three defenders he was unlucky to have his shot blocked as he pulled the trigger.

Palmer beat his man on the edge of the box and sent in a low shot which Hurst did well to turn round the post for a corner.

Oakley knew they needed that cushion of a second goal and with ten minutes remaining they secured victory and the championship when excellent build up play between Jake Kioussis and Heath saw Sam Eldridge apply the finish with a powerful strike, giving Hurst no chance.

The goal led to celebrations in which Eldridge received a cut to his head and had to leave the field of play to be cleaned up.

Minutes later, Long made a rash late challenge on Shaun Kioussis which saw the Peverel player dismissed.

Oakley ran down the clock and the final whistle triggered the celebrations and gave Oakley their first league title in 13 years.

Tomorrow sees Little Oakley Reserves take on Wormingford Wanderers at the Memorial Club (kick-off 3pm).

Then Wednesday sees the first team make the short trip to Brantham Athletic to take on Hatfield Peverel in the Border League Knockout Cup final (7.45pm).