(Newcastle won 4-2 on penalties)
IT has been a season of no little graduation, and there may be more to come.
But if the Students failed their Senior Cup final examination last night, as a strong Newcastle second string claimed the trophy for the third time in four years, and the 36th time in its 118-year history, they did so narrowly, and with immense credit.
It was an education for all, impressive at times by United, but no shame for Team North.
They have the STL Northern League Division Two title in the bag, and a chance yet of two league cups to follow, but yesterday was always likely to prove their toughest assignment.
Newcastle led on 16 minutes when Paul Dummett struck after Andrew Jennison had saved from Ryan Donaldson.
The TN goalkeeper then denied Brad Inman on the half hour, and seconds later his side were back in it.
Tamas Kadar’s misplaced pass fell to Peter Watling on the edge of the box, and he steered the ball into Jak Alnwick’s bottom right-hand corner.
Parity, however, lasted less than two minutes. James Tavernier sprang up the right flank, crossed; Phil Airey cut the ball across and beyond Jennison.
Cruel, and it became crueller still. After Donaldson volleyed at Jennison and Dummett was blocked, Airey drove in the rebound.
Moments before half-time he also skimmed the crossbar, but three minutes after the interval TN were back in it again, Tom Davies heading in Mark Bertram’s corner.
And when Dan Taylor then restored United’s two-goal cushion on 69 minutes, Daniel Riley halved it eight minutes later, and another Davies header eliminated the hosts’ advantage on 82 minutes, setting up a grandstand finale.
In added time Watling’s strike was chalked off for offside, and in extra time Jennison saved brilliantly from Tavernier before Greg McDermott struck the post from a free-kick.
And so to penalties it passed. Graeme Cairns and Watling scored for TN, Graham missed and Alnwick saved from Riley. For United, Donaldson, Taylor and McDermott scored before, conclusively, Michael Richardson.
UNITED: Alnwick, Tavernier, Nzuzi, Kadar, Dummett, Newton (McGorrigan 76), Richardson, Inman, Abeid (McDermott 46), Donaldson, Airey (Taylor 65).
TEAM NORTH: Jennison, Palmer, Davies, Story, Donoghue (Cairns 70), Fenwick (Graham 54), Bertram, Cavener, Riley, Critchlow (Redhead 88), Watling.
Referee: Joseph Buglass. Att: 739