Title's a real delight for Smith
SOCCER: Walsham-le-Willows 2 Melton St Audry's 1. Paul Smith has won enough trophies in his illustrious playing career to fill an outsize cabinet.But leading Walsham-le-Willows to the championship of the Senior Division of the Metaltec SIL gave him extra pleasure.
By Elvin King
Walsham-le-Willows 2 Melton St Audry's
PAUL Smith has won enough trophies in his illustrious playing career to fill an outsize cabinet.
But leading Walsham-le-Willows to the championship of the Senior Division of the Metaltec SIL gave him extra pleasure.
The west Suffolk side wrapped up the title with a narrow win over Melton while nearest rivals Haughley kept up the pressure right to the end with a 2-0 win over Bramford.
"I put it in the top five," said 42-year-old Smith, who has played in an FA Vase final at Wembley Stadium and captured the Jewson League title many times over.
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"I was more nervous than at Wembley, but once we pulled back to 1-1 our fantastic home record was always likely to get us through."
Will Smith now hang up his scoring boots and concentrate on managing?
"I will make my mind up in a month or two," he replied. "I need a lot of treatment on my back to keep going and I don't want to end up in a wheelchair in later life."
But the biggest hint to the immediate future of the striker who has struck 24 times this campaign came when he talked about the only significant trophy he has never won – the Suffolk Senior Cup.
"Perhaps that will come next season," he said. "We always seem to get drawn away. But with the help of a few home ties there is no reason why we cannot reach the Portman Road final."
Smith leads his team in the Omnico Cup final against Stanton tomorrow week at Woodbridge Town looking to complete a double.
Being involved in this title success off, as well as on, the field added to the moment for Smith when the referee signalled the end of Saturday's match.
"The last week has been horrendous," he said. "It has been so tense. I wanted to win this trophy for the club.
"Players like myself, Andy Crane and Nigel Wallis have won titles but for the youngsters in the side it was something new. The mix has worked well.
"It was not how we played against Melton that was is important. It was winning three points.
"We showed character to come back from a goal down, and once we scored you could see our shoulders relax.
"Having won all our home games gave us the confidence to then go on and win this game – which is what we did."
Chairman Mike Powles paid tribute to Smith and his predecessor Peter Bailey.
"Pete set the ball rolling and got us into senior football," said Powles. "Since then we have finished in the top four five times.
"And our reserves have won the Intermediate A title this year.
"When he joined us two years ago Paul's ability as a player outweighed his inexperience as a manager and we knew we had made a good capture.
"We are just a small village with two pubs and shop. So we cannot look any higher than the SIL. Our plan is to emulate what Grundisburgh has done over the last ten years or so."
Secretary Gordon Ross, 15 years with the club and known as 'Mr Walsham', could not hide a tear when the final whistle blew.
"I can't remember crying before," he said. "All the players are heroes and Paul Smith has done exceptionally well. Being a manager is tough enough without playing as well."
As the celebrations commenced, Walsham were left to reflect on a game that did not reach any great heights and was won in the period just before the interval.
Matt Musgrove, whose drive and enthusiasm played a big part in the win, made what his manager called an unnecessary foul in the 28th minute.
Simon Fryatt took the free-kick and from 22-yards drilled a low shot into the bottom corner of the net with the keeper motionless.
"Their keeper lined the wall up and then stood behind it," said Fryatt. "The ball took a slight deflection off the wall but I think it would have gone in anyway.
"We are much too nice a side and when Walsham equalised the ball was punched into the net. Walsham then became too physical for us and we did not do well after the break.
"But we should have been ahead by more by the time they scored. Tom Palmer held Paul Smith well and Austen King hardly gave Nigel Wallis a kick."
In the 42nd minute, Mark Moye nicked the ball off an opponent and after Nigel Wallis and Paul Musgrove had been involved, it was Moye who forced the ball over the line despite the impressive Palmer's challenge.
"The ball went in off Mark's head or shoulder, it was not hand ball," said Smith.
Three minutes into first-half stoppage time, Crane's cross was played by Smith back to Matt Musgrove whose shot bounced in front of McKenna causing him to fumble.
The ball ran away to his right where Paul Musgrove arrived to shoot low, from an angle, into the net.
Smith twice went close to late goals in a second period where Melton had plenty of possession without really troubling Douglas Mustoe in the home goal.
The clock ticked down agonisingly slowly for Walsham and their followers and the end did not come until the 97th minute. But they had done enough.