Beaten on the day, but an occasion that will always be etched in the history of Binfield Football Club.
It was heart-breaking to lose 3-2 to Warrington Rylands in the Buildbase FA Vase final at Wembley, but the players can still be mighty proud of their efforts on Saturday.
The day was nicely summed up by Roger Herridge, who spoke about the “memories which will last forever.”
The Moles legend, who had been brought back into the management team to assist Carl Withers and Jamie McClurg, added: “This is a special club. The support for our little village club is amazing.
“Even Dave McNabb, manager of the winning side, found time in the middle of the Warrington celebrations to dish out praise to the Berkshire side, describing them as a class act.
In cup finals, you often need a hero and Rylands certainly had one in Elliott Nevitt, who scored all of their goals, the first hat-trick at Wembley since Harry Kane for England against Montenegro in 2019.
Binfield trailed 0-1 and 1-3 but goals from Liam Ferdinand kept them in the game right up to the final whistle of an entertaining game on the day fans were allowed back into the national stadium.
It had started promisingly for them with some neat passing enabling all of their players getting an early touch of the ball.
They looked threatening in attack with Sean Moore involved in most of their moves down the left flank and it led to them forcing four corners inside the opening 17 minutes. Even adventurous left-back Elliott Legg found time to join the attack on one occasion, ending up almost touching the Warrington post.
But the North West Counties League side started to come more into the game, forcing keeper Chris Grace to beat out a shot from Steve Milne, who shortly before had got the ball into the net, but only after he had been ruled offside.
They were a warning to the Moles and in the 25th minute, they found themselves trailing. With their defence failing to deal with a cross from Kane Drummond, the ball was headed on by centre-back Joe Coveney and it fell nicely to Nevitt, who from nearly 10 yards smashed a volley into the far corner, giving Grace no chance.
The goal buoyed the boys in blue and they grew in confidence. But they were unable to take control of the game with Moles looking hungry for the equaliser with both centre-back Tom Willment and Ferdinand trying their luck, although both attempts were well wide.
However, Ferdinand made no mistake in the 42nd minute. Predictably, it was Moore who set up the equaliser down the left. Despite seeing three Warrington players looking to bar his path, the Moles skipper managed to find his way through before delivering a left-wing cross into the six-yard box, where Ferdinand with a flick of his head turned it into the net.
They thoroughly deserved to be on level terms – however, it wasn’t for long.
Binfield fans’ celebrations were cut short as less than a minute later they conceded a penalty, with Liam Gavin bringing down Charlie Doyle as he cut into the side of the area. Grace, the hero of four shoot-outs in previous rounds, dived the right way, but the pace of Nevitt’s low shot took it just inside the post.
Whilst perhaps not at their best in opening 45 minutes, Binfield didn’t really deserve to be trailing, but as they had been behind before in the Vase, there were certainly no concern in the dressing room at half-time.
However, a killer blow for Binfield came just before the hour mark when Rylands extended their lead. Coveney delivered a dangerous high ball from the left and the Moles defence could only look on Nevitt rose to power a close-range header past Grace for his third goal of the day.
Six days earlier, the striker had netted the winning goal for Liverpool club Campfield in the FA Sunday Cup.
Binfield are not a side to lie down and once again their resilience got them back in the game and the introduction of Josh Howell for midfielder George Short added fresh legs to their attack, enabling them to trouble the Warrington defence on both flanks.
Ollie Harris saw his effort pushed out by keeper Graeme McCall and, in the follow-up, Moore was denied by Warren Gerrard’s clearance off the line.
But the pressure paid off with their second goal. Maloney, who picked up a headed clearance by a Warrington defender, found Ferdinand on the right edge of the area and the striker hammered in a superbly-placed low shot into the far corner that McCall got a hand to but couldn’t keep out. Binfield were back in business.
The Moles made a double substitution in quick succession with Jack Thompson-Wheeler replacing the Elliott Legg, who had pulled his hamstring, and Harris giving way to Asa Povey, who was making a welcome return after a long lay-off through injury.
However, in a game that saw six minutes off added on time, Binfield had to thank Grace for keeping the score down, the goalie denying Kane Drummond from close range and then Nevitt in a clear one-on-one situation.
In total, both sides had four shots on target, while Binfield had three off target, one less than their opponents.
Grace and Ferdinand were Binfield’s men of the match, but credit must go to the whole team. They have had an outstanding run in the Vase and it is a season that will always be a never-to-be-forgotten occasion in the club’s long history.
It has been a fairytale, sadly without a fairytale ending.
The Moles were richly praised by Warrington manager Dave McNabb, who said: “Fair play to Binfield. What a side they are and what a game it was as well.
“It was two good sides trying to play football in the right way. What an advert for non-league (football).”
He added: “They’ve (Binfield) shown a massive amount of class before and after the game. The whole team stayed, watched us lift the Vase and shook all our hands.”
Binfield: Grace, Hancock, Legg, Willment, Gavin, McClurg, Moore, Short, Harris, Ferdinand, Maloney. Subs: Howell (for Short 63 mins), Thompson-Wheeler (for Legg 72 mins), Povey (for Harris 73 mins). Not used: Broome, Helmore, Veal, Johnson.