Albury Youth Eagles 1 - Moor Mead Athletic 1 (Moor Mead won 6-5 on pens)
Moor Mead marched into the semi-finals of the cup with a dramatic and hard-earned win on penalties in deepest Surrey.
The tetchy atmosphere that marred the league game against Albury continued, as the home side eventually kicked Zac out of the game, and the Parakeets showed great resilience to come through a tough test. Albury were strong and physical, and posed a constant threat, but the defence stood firm, Dilly, Miles and Louis battled well in midfield, and Alec was excellent in goal.
Glaciation had clearly taken a toll on the Guildford countryside, and the pitch appeared to be marked out on a drumlin, falling away quite sharply on the far side. Maybe that played a role in a cagey opening, with both sides slow to settle.
Zac threatened to break the deadlock, latching on to a ball played over the top through the centre, but was brought down on the edge of the box, prompting an acidic exchange between the coaches. Miles’ resulting free kick was smuggled away from goal, and Dilly’s follow up effort blocked.
At the other end Alec came off his line well to snuff out a break. But it was Moor Mead who took the lead, ZAC surging forward, riding a tackle and coolly slotting home (0-1). Zac was causing panic every time he got the ball, and the home side responded by roughhousing him relentlessly, straying very close to foul play. It wasn’t pleasant to watch, but it seemed to work.
Miles toe-poked wide after excellent interplay with Will S. But Albury began to push for an equaliser. Twice Louis made top class tackles to keep them at bay, but they continued to press, and deservedly levelled after an impressive passing move set their big Number 3 free on the left. His cross was headed home by their little striker, who left the Moor Mead defence uncharacteristically flat-footed (1-1).
The second half began in much the same way as the first: lots of huff and puff, but little goal threat from either side. Zac somehow slalomed his way through despite the close attentions of several defenders, but couldn’t get any purchase in his shot. Miles tried a snap shot from the edge of the box, and Zac again threatened before being chopped down once more.
But Albury started to dominate possession. Alec made a couple of smart saves, and the home side went close from a corner, as the Parakeets were forced to throw all hands to the pump to hold on.
As time ticked away Zac was forced out of the game with an injured wrist after a heavy challenge in the centre circle, and at the death Alec raced from his goal to make a first rate smothering save when it looked as though Albury were about to apply the coup de grace.
To penalties, and all sorts of drama. First Moor Mead fell behind, then thanks to a one handed save by Alec, and a shot that seemed to defy the laws of physics by hitting the inside of the post and staying out, they had two chances to win it, only to blow them both.
It was tough on the kids, possibly even tougher on the watching parents. Finally, at the ninth time of asking, Albury blasted over, and William W slotted home the winner despite clutching his head as though suffering from a particularly nasty migraine as he walked up.
Cue scenes of wild celebration, with Dilly out of the woods metaphorically and literally, as he gone there to hide after missing his penalty. It was just reward for a team performance of great heart by a group of boys who refused to be rattled when the odds started to seem stacked against them.