Birkdale Trophies Challenge Cup Semi-Final
Headstone Athletic made it through to the final of the Challenge Cup for the fourth successive season and for the fifth time overall after surviving another dramatic semi-final against Reed Rangers.
After the teams drew 4-4 three weeks previously in the last four of the President’s Cup, they couldn’t be separated again after 120 minutes with the score deadlocked at 2-2 but once again it was Headstone who won through, this time 5-4 on penalties.
One has to have a great deal sympathy for Reed - it was their fourth semi-final appearance in the last two seasons, and they have lost all of them, including three out of the last four on penalties.
Headstone had the dream start after four minutes when a terrible defensive mix-up between Ashley Lawrence and George Minihan allowed Dan Page the simple task of rounding keeper Adrian Delaportec and tapping in from almost on the goal line.
The lead lasted only eight minutes as George Hobson equalised from the penalty spot after Yan Price had tripped Karl Penny in the area.
Headstone regained the advantage after 26 minutes when Delaportec believed he had been fouled in a challenge with Headstone’s captain Pete Owen, but the ball broke loose for Matt Irons to fire home the ball from close range despite the Reed protests.
In the second half Reed had the better of the early play, but their opponents looked to have the game under control when, with 18 minutes left, Jamie Speer struck what looked like a cross from almost the right touchline, it was helped by the wind and looped into the top corner of the goal despite the despairing efforts of Chris Calaby.
The game swung firmly in Reed’s favour but very much like the President’s Cup semi-final they missed several good chances in both normal and extra-time to win the tie as Headstone hung on desperately at times against an onslaught.
Once again both teams' fate was decided by a shoot-out. With Headstone going first, they had scored five perfect spot kicks to Reed’s four with neither keeper getting close until Rangers' fifth kick when Leon Burke saw his effort saved by Calaby to put Headstone through to the final at Kings Langley FC on April 27 when they will face Tudor Arms.
Old Danes Athletic warmed up for the Ken Simmons Memorial Cup final this Sunday with a 3-1 away win over ten-man Evergreen Olympians.
Ross Bennett, Chris White and Colin Spooner found the target with the only Evergreen reply coming late on from Daniel Burke.
Oxhey Rangers' hopes of finishing outside the bottom two got a boost after a 5-3 home win over fellow strugglers Bovingdon AFC.
Dean Purdham was the star of the show for Rangers as he scored an impressive hat-trick, supported by singles from James Hall and Jordan Aston-Woods.Adam Putman struck a brace for Bovingdon with the other goal coming from Chris Trueman.
The Division One title race is still wide open between four clubs.
Hertfordshire Lions took advantage of their double-header against mid-table Inter, taking all six points on offer with 1-0 and 5-1 victories.
Jack Middleton scored the only goal in the first game but Lions had a far easier time of it in the second game thanks to Mitchell Holt’s double strike, with Louis McNamara, Carl Biggs and George Benedetti also finding the net. The Inter consolation goal came from Chris Stead.
Meriden Ballers' impressive run continued with a 5-1 victory over Dynamo Croxley.
Tom Dettmer scored twice, with the other goals netted by Jamie Seabrook, Daps Joshua and Jason Gullin. Kieran Harvey got Dynamo's sole reply.
Brookside are still firmly in the title hunt after they enjoyed a 4-1 win over WD Athletic.
Marc Horn with two, Barrie Horn and Ashley Defries got the Brookside goals with Kasun Jayasinghe the Athletic scorer.
FC Revolution have slipped to an outsider's place in the championship race after they could only take four points from their time games with Colne Valley Reserves.
They won the first game narrowly 2-1 thanks to Andrew Reynolds and James Waldron with Lewis Cole getting the Valley goal, but the return game saw Valley hold one of the title chasers to a goalless draw for the second week running.
Cassiobury Revolution needed second-half goals from Andrew Owusu and Rob Dilkes to win the points against Watford Labour Club.
Woodlands United stopped their slide down the table with a 3-1 win over bottom-placed Roundbush.
Steve Lawrence, James Brophy and Paul Royal got the United goals with Blaise Shevrington netting the Bush effort.