Final thrill for David

SOCCER: The magic of Portman Road knows no barriers. David Sale is a 50-something who will get just as big a thrill as the eager youngsters competing in Suffolk's big showpiece game at the home of Ipswich Town tonight.

THE magic of Portman Road knows no barriers.

David Sale is a 50-something who will get just as big a thrill as the eager youngsters competing in Suffolk's big showpiece game at the home of Ipswich Town tonight.

Holders Kirkley from the Anglian Combination meet Jewson League First Division Haverhill Rovers in the final of the Suffolk Senior Cup.

Ipswich-based Sale will be running a line as one of referee Lionel Scutcher's assistants.

The combatants might hail from the far-flung regions of the county, but for Scutcher and Sale only the second Senior Cup final not to include an Suffolk and Ipswich League side since 1989 will be a 'home' game.

The other assistant, Kevin Theobald, hails from Sudbury.

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"It will be a big night for all three of us," said Sale. "I played football for 20 years and never played at Suffolk's premier ground.

"This will be one of my biggest nights in football. It came as a surprise as it never entered my head that I would receive a appointment like this."

Sale, who is loath to reveal his age, has been refereeing for 20 years and has made such a big impression in the Metaltec SIL this season that he was appointed to take charge of last Saturday's Omnico Cup semi-final between Walsham-le-Willows and Ipswich Athletic at Grundisburgh.

"I had to cry off because of a slight knee problem," added Sale. "I did not have the confidence to sprint fully, but that was mainly a precaution and I am 100 per cent now. The players will never forget tonight's game and neither will the officials."

Sale, who played for Bramford United, Christy's and East End during his playing days, can understand the problems new referees encounter.

"It is tough, very tough and the situation is getting worse," he said. "Managers and club officials can be heard swearing and carrying on and they don't set a good example to their players.

"I can understand young referees not wanting to carry on with all the aggro they have to put up with.

"You have to be totally committed, but if you can get through the initial minefield then there are rewards – like mine tonight."

Scutcher is a Jewson League assistant referee and SIL referee who has taken charge of a number of matches this season with Sale on one line.

With the finalists coming from far afield it gives Ipswich officials a chance to have their day at Portman Road.

Kirkley will start favourites to retain the trophy they won when they beat Ipswich Athletic 3-1 last season. Assistant referee Bob Bullamore played a crucial part when he ruled that Athletic keeper Neil Hamblin had strayed out of his penalty area when he collected a through ball.

Hamblin was shown a red card and Kirkley's task was made that much easier. Kirkley are rated by many as the best side at this level in the county and they have a succession of good cup wins behind them.

Haverhill's last final appearance was in 1997 when they beat Ipswich Wanderers 4-1. They will be hoping for a repeat tonight.

Admission is £3, which includes a programme. and the trophy will be presented by county chairman George Whight.