FC United 2 Curzon Ashton 1
FORMER Manchester United youth-team skipper Josh Howard secured a league and cup double for FC United and sparked a virtual beach party at sand-strewn Tameside Stadium.
The Rebels midfielder won his side a penalty and then produced a magical solo winner 10 minutes from time after a Chris Worsley goal had threatened to upset the FC apple cart in the North West Counties League Challenge Cup final.
And that brought words of praise from his manager Karl Marginson, who said: "I was in Spain on Sunday night watching Barcelona play, and if one of their players had scored a goal like that it would have been beamed around the world time and time again.
"It was fantastic skill at any level of football, especially on such a hard, bumpy pitch, but we know Josh is a special player."
That goal was the highlight of a hard-fought game which was spoilt by a sandy pitch, but Marginson had sent his players out with a special message.
He said: "I told them that there would be 3,000 hard-done-to Reds out there, still hurting from the night before and what happened in Milan, and that they couldn't let them down.
"It's been a great season for us and it was also important to finish on a high."
It was a shame that Tameside Stadium was the only venue available, because the pitch was a shocker.
For the conspiracy theorists, it could have been the film lot when Nasa faked the moon landing in 1969.
What could have been a great final between two teams who have been the best in the North West Counties League this season turned into a battle of scuffers and scrappers, players who were prepared to wait for the breaks.
Curzon had the better of the first half chances, three times beating the linesman's flag as Steven Moore, Worsley and Mike Norton all broke clear of the defence, but could not beat FC goalkeeper Sam Ashton.
But Curzon went ahead on 67 minutes, just as FC seemed to be taking control, and it was a belter. Worsley cut in from the left wing and smashed a right-footed shot across Ashton into the far corner.
Curzon had barely had time to celebrate before the Rebels were level.
Howard went down in the box and Nicky Platt, only just back on the pitch after having stitches in a head wound, calmly slotted home the spot kick.
That set up Howard for a grand finale, and when he picked up the ball on the left, he jinked past three players before crashing the ball gleefully home.