The most recent first team trophy the club have won came without playing the final. Either Braintree Town or Chelmsford City awaited Forest in the final of the 2005-6 Essex Senior Cup.
It should have a been a spectacular final, played at Southend United’s Roots Hall ground, but Forest were denied as both other semi-finalists were kicked out for a 30-man brawl in their semi.
Then playing in Division 1 East of the Southern League, Forest were exempt from the first two rounds of the competition.
In the third round, Forest made it three wins out of three against Aveley that season, winning 2-1 at Wadham Lodge. Hakan Hayrettin rotated his squad – as was by then the norm at this early stage in the competition. Aveley made all the early running, and took the lead with Kevin Marsden heading in a well-worked free kick.
Jermain Hughes got Forest level with just 21 minutes played, and Sean Crossley made it 2-1 with a free-kick routine to match Aveley’s in the first half. Forest hung on in injury time, when Aveley missed a couple of sitters, but safe passage to the fourth round was secured.
A long midweek trip to Stanway Rovers was Forest’s rewards, but the travel clearly did them some good, scoring twice in the first two minutes – first Leon McKenzie running onto a weak clearance from the home keeper and slamming home, then Stuart Houghton was in the right place to tap in a Jermain Hughes shot which had initially been parried.
Forest continued to probe, but Stanway hit on the break and got a goal back from the penalty spot just as the referee blew for half time.
On 58 minutes a long range effort by Saunders was well taken by Jason Willis who cleared to Belton-McKenzie. He played a telling pass to Sosthene Guei who sent Jermain Hughes through to score Forest’s third goal.
David Bastian then headed a goal bound free kick off the line, and then Forest went looking to seal their victory. It seemed to have on 87 minutes when Houghton beat 3 defenders and forced a corner which was met by Nicky Stevens, but his header was blocked on the line and cleared up field to Compton who crossed for Paul Symes to slot home Stanway’s second goal. Stanway pressed for an equaliser but the Forest defence held firm.
The quarter finals drew Forest against more familiar opposition in Harlow Town.
Although Harlow probably had 60% of the possession, they had very little cutting edge to their attack and only had two shots on target during the whole match.
Soon Stuart Houghton began to make an impression on the left. In the 31st minute he slammed over a lovely cross which ‘keeper Jamie Riley could only tip onto the onrushing Danny Chapman; the ball cannoned off him onto the post and out for another corner. Another attack and an excellent cross from Kanyuka presaged forthcoming events. On 32 minutes he crossed again for Houghton who put the ball low and hard into the penalty area where Jermain Hughes was running in to score.
Once the teams turned around it became obvious how much the wind was behind Harlow in the first half, it was now Forest’s turn to come to terms with it in the weight of the passes.
Harlow tried to push on but the half time pep talk had changed nothing, they still lacked bite and, every time the Stags came forward there was danger for the rather ragged Harlow defence.
It was Matthew Judge who was to pull the first save of the half from Riley, indeed he went on to have an excellent half becoming involved in almost every attack. It was not only Judge who was making a mark; Jermain Hughes’ constant running in defence an attack became a nightmare for the visitors. On 61 minutes he got to the goal line and cut back a beautiful ball which was just too quick for three Stags attackers to get to.
As the half wore on, the Stags mounted even more attacks but the ball stayed out of the net due to off sides and some luck. In the end, after 92 minutes Kanyuka rose to head home a corner with the last touch of the match.
In the semi-final, Forest blew away Isthmian Premier side Heybridge Swifts. “We treated our semi final against Heybridge Swifts as the final and we were excellent. We beat them 3-0 which is quite something as they went onto finish second in the Ryman Premier League”, said Hayrettin.
The average age of that semi-final team, but it was the more senior Jermain Hughees who lead them to victory, continuing his blistering form in that season’s competition.
“Jermain is one of our oldest players at 34 and he may not have been playing had we not lost the likes of Leon McKenzie and Alan Cox to injury. But Jermain came in and scored two goals against Heybridge and he really adds a lot of pace, spice and character to our team,” said Hakan of the striker who picked up the Essex County FA’s Semi Final Player of the Round Award.
Hakan admitted that he’d been hoping for a good cup run at the start of the season: “I sat down with our board and we all agreed that a top six finish and some good cup performances would mean a successful season. We have an incredibly small budget at the club but we’ve managed to finish eighth and pick up the Senior Cup so it’s not been a bad year at all.
“We’d loved to have played at Roots Hall in the Senior Cup Final but it’s been a brilliant achievement by everyone at the club and we’re delighted to receive such a great trophy”.