HALIFAX FIRSTS 2 – 1 VANBRUGH FIRSTS
Images: Peter Iveson
Halifax Firsts have booked their place in the College Cup final after beating their Vanbrugh counter parts 2-1, thanks to a stunning goal from striker Conor Brennan and a header from Captain Tom Ragan.
Starting with a slightly altered formation that saw Brennan moved from a wide left position to just behind the lone frontman Ragan, with Tom Day moving to the wing as part of a four man midfield, the Fax started somewhat slowly. Jonny Sim was forced into a smart save after neat interplay from Ali Prince and Phil Taylor put Kieran O’Dywer through on goal with the match barely five minutes old. The industrious Vanbrugh frontman should have scored and provided his team with a valuable foothold in a game that quickly swung away from them and in the favour of their impressive opponents.
They went close again, however, through a dipping Ben Stanier freekick that had Sim, but not the post beaten. This attempt foreshadowed the central attacking threat that Halifax would face, but their defensive quartet, and in particular Dom Petschak and Dan Turley were typically imperious. They were powerless though to stop a rasping half volley from Vanbrugh Captain Taylor that would have severely troubled Sim if it were a little further away from him
After a robust start Vanbrugh were right in the match but a moment of magic from Brennan soon dampened their mood. After a Scaysbrook throw in was pounced upon by Day Vanbrugh failed to clear and, with the ball bouncing high off the JLD surface, Brennan produced a sublime volley that swerved with menace into the top corner of the net, leaving James Wilson rooted, despairingly to the spot. It was a moment of quality that would have illuminated any College Cup game and the celebrations from Halifax were a testament to the importance of scoring the opener.
The rest of the half was played at a frenetic tempo and Brennan went close again after a beautifully weighted through ball from Tom Ragan, before Ash Daly arrowed an effort toward the top corner from fully 25 yards that Wilson could only fumble wide. Referee Dan Horsfall was called into action when a cynical challenge by Scaysbrook provoked an angry reaction from Day. Both were booked for their part in the incident as well as Stanier, who will feel hard done by as he was acting as the peace maker between his team mate and an on rushing Matt Mawdesley, who escaped reproach but was later cautioned for a shocking tackle on Johnny Grout.
Jon Gill almost equalised from a corner on the stroke of half time and one of his superb long throws was flicked just over to gasps from the crowd by Taylor. Vanbrugh will have gone in heartened at the break but soon after half time Halifax produced a killer goal. Jack Beadle found a rare pocket of space in the wide right channel and he danced past Rob Rix before producing a superlative cross that Ragan headed powerfully home leaving Wilson helpless. Taylor reorganised and threw men forward, leaving three at the back for the remainder of the match, but there was little his side could do to seriously trouble Ragan and his men. The closest they came was a nicely worked driven corner looked destined to ripple the back of the net but somehow squirmed through a ruck of players went out for a corner.
They gained a consolation with minutes to play as a huge kick from Wilson bounced awkwardly between centre back Turley and goalkeeper Sim. The ball ballooned off the head of the otherwise faultless Turley and into his own net to give Vanbrugh a glimmer of hope that they couldn’t capitalise on.
Phil Taylor was understandably downbeat about the defeat and said: ” They (Halifax) deserved it. I’m disappointed especially after we seemed to be getting back on track after a bad opening performance against James. I’m proud of the lads and I think that they’ll probably go on and win it.” For Tom Ragan this was vindication of much of the hype that has surrounded his side after another sterling performance: “We always knew they were going to be a very good team and they’ve got a great spine. We dealt with them so well all day and we take some great form into the final now”
Vanbrugh Firsts: James Wilson, Matt Scaysbrook (Tom Spring), Ziggy Heath, Jon Gill, Rob Rix, Ben Stanier, Johnny Grout, Phil Taylor, Jamie Clarke (Rory Sharkey), Ali Prince, Kieran O’Dwyer (Ben Lowe)
Man of the Match: Ben Stanier
Halifax Firsts: Jonny Sim, Mark Lund, Dan Turley, Dom Petschak, Alex Tringham, Tom Day, Matt Mawdesley, Ash Daly (Gio Palides), Conor Brennan, Jack Beadle, Tom Ragan (Elliot Ragan). Unused Subs: Tom Patrickson
Man of the Match: Jonny Sim