Saturday 20th March 2010
By Russell Nethercot
Saturday 19th March 2010. A day that will be not be forgotten. A day you will always remember. A day, you will turn around in years to come and say, “I was there”.
Semi Final: Farnborough Vs Bridon Ropes.
A perfect day for football, a perfect afternoon for a semi-final, a perfect time for someone to become a hero. And yes, a hero was born.
Unusually for us, we started the game quite well. The first 20 minutes was all a bit up in the air but we got into the game, everyone looked up for it, tackles were going in all over the pitch, but we acquitted ourselves very well.
The first goal of the game was very lucky for Bridon and equally, very harsh on Farnborough. It was about half hour in, and was probably deserved from their point of view as it came after a bit of pressure they had built on.
I remember it quite well because the cross leading up to the goal was about a foot over the line and should never have been a corner in the first place, anyways, the corner has come in, it’s been met by a Bridon head, and headed towards the corner. I didn’t actually see whether it was handball or not as the ref was right in my line of vision, but nevertheless he gave a penalty for handball.
The forward stepped up and stuck it in.
It would be fair for me to say, when that happened, judging how our season has gone, that I think all of us, half expected to be walking in at half time three or four down but the character and resolve we showed to get back into the game was a credit to everyone, including the management and maybe could be a catalyst for us for the rest of the season. We proved to ourselves on Saturday that going a goal down against a good side does not mean the game is over.
Besides the pen though, we had done OK. The back four, who were magnificent all afternoon, defended brilliantly and we did put the Bridon defence under some pressure after the goal. Luke and Ealsey were fanatastic. Dunney has been our best player the last few games. His sheer power in the air and “no nonsense” defending complements Nick, whose positional play and controlled passing dealt with everything thrown at them. Crossey dealt with the right winger extremely well and made about 4 or 5 back post clearances and blocks that proved invaluable.
Up top we worked hard without much reward first half, but as the game went on I certainly felt we had the beating of their defence.
We went in at half time 1-0 down but with everything to play for – Bridon had been dangerous but there was nothing in the game to suggest they were unbeatable.
Cue the 2nd half which, until our equaliser, we were by far the better team and camped ourselves in Bridon’s final third for the 2nd half.
The midfield stifled the opposition's midfield pair and started putting their authority on the game with some neat passes and a fantastic work rate. The Bridon #6, who I thought was by far their best player, didn’t influence the game half as much as he did in the first half. A special mention must go to his midfield partner, the skipper, number 8, who I’m sure you would all agree, is by far the nicest bloke I’ve ever played against. And the best looking.
Before I explain how we equalised, if Martin Johnson is looking for the next Johnny Wilkinson, look no further than our very own…………… Sam Clarkson.
He has a left foot like a hammer, not only the power, but the ability to pick people out from a goal kick which is a very difficult skill. His kicking all day was superb and he single handedly put Bridon’s defence on the back foot. As far as I’m concerned, he should take our free kicks and pens. He is our very own Jose Chilavert, who for you younger ones who won’t know him, is the ex-Paraguayan goalkeeper who used to take the free kicks and pens for his national side. Besides this, Sam’s goalkeeping on the day was excellent, and he didn’t make one mistake all afternoon.
He picked up a routine ball back, took aim and hit a goal kick out of his hands which has travelled and travelled and travelled……………………..into the back of the net. Get in. 1-1 The goalie’s bagged and we are right back in this with a good chunk of the half to play.
Ben Slade who was brilliant all game was having more and more joy down the right side, he’s turning into some player our Sladey and his powerful running, endless energy and great aerial prowess are making him some threat. He needs to lose a bit of weight and we really will get the best out of him for this final leg of the season. With Taps behind him, they have formed an excellent partnership down that right flank. Taps again was Mr Consistency and put in another sterling performance at right back against their left winger who was very decent.
The last 15 minutes went by far too quickly, but we were the superior team in the 2nd half, and Bridon were lucky to go in at full time without us nicking a winner.
Big Players win Big Games.
Darren & Vince rallied the troops, as did our very own warm up specialist and coach for the day, injured midfielder Kevin Lott. Lotty’s warm up has become a key part to the back end of our season.
We went out for extra time really believing we could win the game. And that is exactly what we did.
5 minutes into extra time and we’re 2-1 up.
Chris Charlton has had a season blighted with injury so it was fitting that he came back and played an integral part in the game. Chrissy is a top player, when he wants to be, and he let his football do the talking in the second half and extra time.
A neat interchange with my strike partner, who sold his marker a dummy, and let Chris ghost into the box on the left hand side of the penalty area with the ball at his left foot. There was only one outcome. BANG. He has a belter of a left peg, and as he let fly, the keeper could only parry it into the top of the net. It was similar to the infamous Ryan Giggs goal against Villa in the 1999 semi final replay.
That semi final saw Ryan Giggs score the most famous goal in a cup competition of our generation.
That is until I’ve gone and bettered it 11 years later.
I’ve won a flick on from a goal kick and the ball has ended up with Mickey on the left hand side, he’s laid it off to me, about 25 yards out (or 35…?)……..I’ve taken aim and hit a Worldie which has gone in off the bar Tony Yeboah style. 3-1 Farnborough!
A nervy 2nd half of extra time and it was end to end. Bridon slung everything at us but we defended brilliantly. Dave Martin came on for me and had a stinging drive and was a good outlet for us at this late stage.
Bridon scored in the last minute from close range and on the last kick of the game the Bridon left back has hit the shot of his life which has cannoned off the post and gone God knows where. Some luck for us at last!
The ref blows up – we are in the final!!!
1 NIL DOWN, 3-2 UP, THAT’S HOW WE’RE GONNA WIN THE CUP!
A just reward for such an unlucky season we have had. Every team we have played has said how well we have played and our current league position doesn’t reflect the quality that we have.
All we’ve got to do now is go on and win it.