PROUD Gas Recreation manager Simon Hayward hailed his players after watching them defy the odds to complete a league and cup double.

The Essex and Suffolk Border League champions followed up their title success by lifting the Knockout Cup, defeating AFC Sudbury A 2-1.

It was the second year in a row the Colchester-based side have secured the double and Hayward described the achievement as "beyond the club's wildest expectations".

"Doing the double last season was a massive achievement but to repeat it and manage back-to-back doubles - apparently for only the third time in the league's history and last done 20 years ago by Gas Rec - is something the club and players should be immensely proud of," he told the Gazette.

"The achievement is particularly impressive given that after last season's success we lost nine important players, who elected to ply their trade elsewhere, and had a disrupted pre-season when it would have been easy for more to walk away and turn the light off on the way out.

"In the early part of the season, we struggled for personnel but, thanks to those who stayed loyal, plus additions to the squad, we slowly built on our performances and remarkably won the league by four points - this on top of losing three points early in the season for fielding an ineligible player.

"We're not everyone's cup of tea and seem to be disliked by many, which is disappointing, but perhaps that's because of our continued success.

"Our success this season has been achieved against all the odds and I'm so proud of those players who, throughout the season, have been a part of making history. It's an unbelievable achievement."

Hayward thanked assistant boss Calvin Firkins, first-team coach Dean West and captain and fitness coach Luke Taylor, in addition to Gas' committee, especially secretary Steve Norman and chairman Jay West.

The premier division champions ran out 2-1 winners in the Knockout Cup final against Sudbury's young guns on Friday.

The match took place under the floodlights at Brantham Athletic and Scott Page and John Bulmer were on target for the Bromley Road side.

"I feared the worst with eight players unavailable, with six of them being regular starters, including keeper Lee Mahoney and arguably the club's most influential player, Asten Firkins.

"Luckily, we were able to call on the services of Dan Beeson, who put in a man-of-the-match performance between the sticks.

"We knew Sudbury would be well-drilled, organised and fitter.

"These boys prepare well and train daily, compared to our team who, in the last three years, apart from pre-season, have only trained about half-a-dozen times, something that will change next season.

"Most that saw our team sheet for the cup final and attended the game would have had difficulty imagining we could win.

"However, having seen Sudbury win the Tommy Thompson Cup recently, I felt a route one approach, while clearly not popular with many, was perhaps the way to win.

"In the second half, we had to dig in and defend for our lives, especially after going down to nine men and due to the unavailability of so many players.

"Sudbury ran us ragged late on but, despite their superior fitness and technical ability, one thing they didn't have was our heart, belief and desire as the boys put their bodies on the line for an unbelievable achievement."