HALIFAX SECONDS 1-1 VANBRUGH FIRSTS (5-4 ON PENALTIES)
Cup Quarter Final
Images: Alex Slingsby and Dan Holland
Halifax seconds won a dramatic penalty shootout against Vanbrugh firsts in today’s College Cup quarter final, setting up a clash with Halifax firsts in the last four.
Elliot Ragan opened the scoring for Halifax in the first half, before an own goal from keeper Mitch Barwick levelled the scores for the defending champions. Phil Taylor had missed an early penalty for Vanbrugh and both he and Kyle Picknell missed in the shootout to send Halifax through to play Matt Darling’s side on Monday afternoon.
The match began with Halifax on top, Hamish Denham prodding a shot over the bar in the early stages.
But the first real chance of the day came for Taylor from the penalty spot after referee Dan Horsfall had spotted a slide in the area. Taylor, however, dragged his effort wide of the post.
Minutes later, a Harry O’Brien free kick from range was just about tipped over the bar by Barwick, the swirling wind and rain proving difficult to deal with in the opening 20 minutes.
The seconds side, who would have finished top of their group were it not for a points deduction, took the lead when Denham played a lovely ball through for Ragan, who was cutting in from the left and managed to squeeze a shot under the onrushing James Wilson and into the net.
It was a deserved lead for Halifax, who had looked far better in possession of the ball in the first half. Vanbrugh were lacking penetration going forward and could have fallen further behind before the break. Connor Meckin capitalised on a mistake from Wilson to pull the ball back across the area, with Callum Woodall almost putting it through his own net with the clearance.
Vanbrugh’s best chances again fell to Taylor, but he was unable to make the most of a splendid Rory Sharkey cross from the left, scuffing his volley well wide at the back post.
Ragan could have doubled his tally before the break, reacting fastest as Wilson parried Connor McCoy’s long-range drive, but he could only hit the side netting with the rebound.
After the break, Halifax still looked stronger in attack, McCoy curling a free kick just wide of the top corner, before Denham also pulled a shot off target.
The reigning College Cup champions weren’t about to give up their crown without a fight though, and soon came back into it, making this the most exciting of the week’s quarter finals.
O’Brien saw one effort hacked away off the line following a corner, before his own set piece delivery troubled Barwick again, this time hitting the bar.
Wilson still had to be alert at the other end to keep out Meckin with an outstretched left boot, and it seemed as if Vanbrugh were heading for a quarter final exit. That was until Taylor produced a moment of magic to, temporarily at least, alter the course of the game.
He hit a dipping left foot volley that bounced back down off the underside of the bar, and went over the line after hitting Barwick on the back. The Halifax players complained, but referee Horsfall looked to have made the right decision.
That left Vanbrugh in the mood for a winner, Tom Parish and Adam Lewis introduced from the bench to bolster their attack. However, much as they improved in the final 15 minutes, it was in fact Halifax who enjoyed the best chance to win it in normal time.
With the last kick of the game, Meckin found himself in a shooting position on the right hand side of the box, but his driven effort was kept out by Wilson.
To penalties then, the third shootout the JLD has seen this week. Dave Lewis and Rob Rix both got their sides off to a fine start, but Henry Collins hit the post with Halifax’s second to hand Vanbrugh the advantage.
Brewer, Wilson and O’Dwyer were all unfased as they continued their shootout-winning form from 2012. Denham, Henry and Ragan all scored for Fax to hand Taylor the decisive kick – score and he would have sent Vanbrugh through. But, for the second time in the match, his kick was scuffed, this time rolling onto the base of the post.
Meckin scored for Halifax in sudden death, and Vanbrugh substitute Kyle Picknell became the third man to strike the woodwork in the shootout to set up an all-Halifax semi final.
Victorious captain Johnny McGuinness was in celebratory mood at full-time, though he will be without crossovers McCoy, Meckin and Denham for Monday’s match. He told Nouse, “It was a good game. We got the early goal and sat on it a bit, and they got a bit of a lucky late one. The lads did really well, congratulations to all the penalty takers, but it was maybe a bit harsh on Vanbrugh to go out – they played really well.”
A disappointed Vanbrugh skipper Johnny Grout, still sidelined through injury, commented, “It’s really disappointing, especially for myself with not being able to play. Penalties is never a nice way to go out, but good luck to Halifax in the semis. We’re really disappointed.”
Halifax: Barwick, McGuinness, Lewis, Arezoo, Howarth, Collins, Henry, McCoy, Meckin, Ragan, Denham.
Man of the match: Elliot Ragan
Vanbrugh: Wilson, Wignall, Brewer, Graham, Rix, O’Brien (Picknell), O’Dwyer, Taylor, Sharkey, Woodall (Lewis), Rous-Ross (Parish).
Man of the match: Keiran O’Dwyer