Blackburn Rovers' walking football team finished runners-up in the WFU National Tournament northern finals this weekend after being pipped by the best team in the country.
Barnsley-based Leggy Mambos, who have won both of the first two WFU tournaments, stayed on course for a hat-trick after beating Rovers 1-0 in a 'winner takes all' final group game.
Hosted at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre, the northern finals pitted the home team against the best from Greater Manchester (Wigan Walkers), West Yorkshire (Leeds Titans) and South Yorkshire (Leggy Mambos), in what is effectively walking football's answer to the FA Cup.
After numerous tight encounters at the Lancashire Summer Series in Fleetwood, Rovers chose a great time to secure their first win over Wigan, triumphing 2-1 in the day's opening fixture. A goallless draw against Leeds then meant that Blackburn and Leggy Mambos went into the final game of the day level at the top of the group on four points each.
With a place in the national finals at the Etihad Campus in Manchester at stake, a fiesty Roses battle followed, but a second half goal from a team that has been playing together for 30 years proved to be the difference against a Rovers team that had only played its first game almost exactly six months earlier.
Adrian Ward, who oversaw the organisation of the tournament for Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, felt that the home team had every reason to be proud, despite coming agonisingly close to pulling off an upset, admitting:
"Nobody in walking football circles ever expects Leggy Mambos to be beaten, as they've built up such a standing within the game in its fledgling years, but our lads didn't let their opponents' reputations go before them.
"They stood up to the task physically and mentally, and with just a little more rub of the green or composure in front of goal, they would have done it.
"To have come this far in six months is a massive achievement and it's really positive to hear that we're now being talked about across the country as one of the teams to watch when we go to tournaments - a huge leap from our first friendly when we felt it would take time to build up our experience.
"There's silverware at stake when we play in the Lancashire Summer Series Grand Finals in October against all the best teams from our region, so if we can go one step further and claim something from our debut year, it would be an impressive achievement."
Players who are aged over 50 and want to experience the buzz of pulling on their favourite team's shirt can get involved in the weekly training sessions at the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre, every Friday night from 6pm to 7pm. The first five sessions are free as part of the 'Motivate!' programme to get people back into sport, and then cost just £2 per week thereafter.