AFC Mansfield failed to retain their Phoenix Trophies Floodlit Cup as Bulwell raced into a two-goal lead in the first 25 minutes for a 2-1 victory at South Normanton’s Exchem Sports ground.
Jamie Walker saw his header crash off the post in the opening 10 minutes as Bulwell charged down the slope on the South Normanton pitch.
It was no surprise when Bulwell went in front on 16 minutes as a fortuitous deflection off Danny Naylor saw the ball land invitingly at Darren Garmston’s feet and the midfielder curled a superb effort into the top right hand corner from just outside the box.
With a slight suspicion of offside Connor Croft made it 2-0 on 25 minutes, latching onto an excellent through ball from man of the match Ryan Bowen.
The Bulls should have pulled one back before half-time when Joe Naylor fired over the bar from close range after a promising move.
The second half started with AFC chasing the game and the slope became the deciding factor again.
Bulwell were forced to defend for long periods although always looked dangerous on the break.
An element of time wasting started to creep into the game and, although referee Chris Hunter booked two Bulwell players late on, the damage was already done and it was a case of too little too late.
The same can be said for the referee’s inability to deal with several raised arms throughout the game and some very hefty challenges from both sides.
Nevertheless AFC gave themselves a lifeline on 75 minutes when Joe Naylor headed Mark Carter’s cross back across goal.
An attempted clearance only found the foot of Carter who fired home from a tight angle.
The Bulls pushed forward, but chance after chance went begging.
Bulwell played their part with some outstanding, if not desperate, defending at times and, try as they might, AFC could not break down the Bulwell defence.
So Bulwell claimed the cup that AFC Mansfield had held from last season and, with the Mansfield side going one better this year and winning their league, Bulwell will be hoping lightning does strike twice.
For AFC a semi-final tie next Wednesday awaits against Belper United.
The game will be played at Hucknall Town’s ground for a place in the League Challenge Cup final, which will be held at Alfreton Town’s ground.
AFC MANSFIELD: Sheppard, Tighe, Meehan, Draper, Timons (c) (McCann 86), Naylor D (Holmes 80), Buxton, Naylor J, Rick, Haslam, Carter. Subs not used: Brewin, Wilson, Fletcher.
BULWELL FC: Simpson, Moore, Saunders, Knight, Soar, Garmston, Bowen, Marley (Hogg 80), Croft, McKeever, Walker. Subs not used: Vipond, Prewitt, Marks, Perkins.
REFEREE: Mr Chris Hunter.
AFC MANSFIELD MAN OF THE MATCH: Joe Naylor.