We started with almost the same line-up as last week, with Luis coming in to start at left back in place of the absent Adam. Craig did a no-show for this game after a heavy which meant I continued at centre back and we had just the one substitute.
It was clear to me how important a decent warm-up is before a game by how badly our opponents started this game. They arrived to the pitch with about 10 minutes until kick off with a couple of players not arriving until after, and we wasted no time in making them pay for their poor preparation.
Within a few minutes we had taken the lead. Tom got in on the left and played a pinpoint cross to Karl who was waiting at the back stick to sidefoot delicately back across the goal and into the net.
We doubled our lead very soon after, Aiden delivered a long kick from his hands which bounced through to Lee who took it on and finished neatly from close range. EG were all over the place at the back and between their defence and keeper seemed unable to cope with any direct passes.
They did pull one back before too long, their wide left player hitting a speculative strike from about 25 yards which Aiden seemed to lose the flight of and could only parry it into the net.
EG seemed to have settled and were awarded a penatly after their pacey striker got in behind George, and as Aiden rushed out to close him down there was a collision between the three of them and the ref deemed it enough to point at the spot.
Thankfully the resulting penalty was poor and Aiden judged it well to comfortably save low-down in the middle of the goal.
Johnny had a few chances to score when he had the ball around the edge of the box but uncharacteristically seemed to lack a bit of composure at the crucial moments.
Despite his excellent assist for our first, Tom wasn't getting involved as much as he'd like to have been and was being dealt with quite well by their centre backs once they'd found their feet.
Lee was having another mixed game, showing all the willingness to do what he does best, dropping the shoulder and beating any over-zealous markers that commited themselves too much, but when he didn't manage to get past his man his reaction was disappointing, getting annoyed with himself and stopping in frustration instead of using that energy to try and win the ball back and make up for it.
It's important that we all try and turn that negative feeling that you feel when things aren't going your way in a positive contribution by getting the bit between your teeth and winning the ball back or at least make it hard for the other team to capitalise on winning back possession. It's times like that where you can lift not only yourself but also those around you who will be inspired by your attitude and raise their own effort level to match.
Karl had to leave the pitch after around half an hour with an injury to his knee. This meant self-designated sub Will came on after a tremendous linesman performance, Lee shifted to the right flank and Will slotted in on the left.
EG are a decent footballing side and like to get it down and play through the middle, with their central players finding spaces to try and exploit us. Not for the first time this season, the opposition tried to overcome us by playing over-the-top in behind our back line but we were dealing with it ok. If their quick striker had been a better finisher then we may have been in a different situation coming into half-time.
My team talk at the break was brief, there wasn't much to mention that needed improving and we were clearly in the driving seat. Tom suggested putting him out on the left and Will in the middle with Johhny going up front, but I wasn't sure it would add anything and was confident that if we maintained how we were playing that we'd kick on from there. Plus Will was doing well out on the left, linking up well with those around him.
The second half started in a very similar manner to the first and we increased our lead after not long at all, with an excellent goal. I picked out Lee on the right with a long pass into the channel which he took on and then delivered a peach of a cross onto Tom's head, he made no mistake and guided the ball back in the direction it came from, with the keeper unable to keep it out despite getting a finger tip to it.
We got another lovely goal soon after that, with Luis and Will heavily involved in the build up. Luis was making some incisive surging runs from left back and did so again, laying off to Will who found him again with a cute disguised pass, Luis then carried on before cutting back to Johnny who had now found his shooting boots and finished calmly.
EG weren't dead yet though and scored another long range effort from out wide, Fred gave their man just a little bit too much time which allowed him the space to pick his spot and curl it into the far corner, leaving Aiden with no chance. It was a hell of a finish though and sometimes you have to hold your hands up to them.
Barnesy had been having another solid game in the middle, finding space and linking up well with those around him. I'm not sure how much he knew about what he was doing in there but it was effective anyway. He seemed to be lagging just a little with that familiar red face making an appearance so I replaced him with Karl whose knee had settled down. Will moved into the middle, Lee back on the left and Karl took up his usual right flank.
Tom got his second with an assist by Johnny, I can't remember what happened for this one I'm afraid but I'm sure it was a sensational goal...
EG still refused to accept defeat and scored a well-taken free kick, we perhaps should have had someone on the post who most likely would have been able to head clear, but again, it was a pinpoint finish.
We weren't troubled by EG's determination not to give in and continued to attack whenever we felt like it. I had been giving Rich a bit of an earful throughout the game because of the amount of space their midfielders were finding in front of the back four. I think this was beginning to annoy him after a while as he was putting in a lot of effort to try and maintain the balance behind Johnny and Will who naturally like to play further forward. Even though he didn't seem too up for it he did sit in front of the back line a bit more and it definitely made us more solid. I told him to be a little more vocal with Will and/or Johnny to get them to put a bit more in defensively when EG were sending men forward. There were times where we had 5 on 4 in their favour and we need to be able to adjust our shape to put the superiority back in our favour when that happens.
Tom then completed his hattrick, I sent another ball over the top with a first time clearance and Tom found himself in a familiar position, out-pacing and out-muscling his marker before bearing down on goal and applying the finish, textbook...I jokingly asked him if he still wanted to go out on the left...
Eg yet again pulled one back, their nippy striker finally working out how to finish after getting in behind us whilst we were perhaps resting on our laurels a bit too much.
Johnny completed the scoring with a textbook goal of his own, arriving in the box at just the right time to receive a short pass from Lee who had had a much improved second half and seemed to be involved in most of our attacking play in one way or another. Johnny finished from close range with a side foot past the hapless keeper.
The ref blew for full time and we were through to the semi-final with another fine performance. We did concede four goals in this game but I am not concerned, they were all very well taken goals and we couldn't do anything about most of them. We scored 7 against a very decent team and that's what we should be very pleased about. Goals and assists are coming from all over the pitch and we are looking more and more comfortable as we go on, with players slotting into positions they might not usually play in and producing fine displays.
On that note I'd like to give Luis man of the match for this one. It's not often that a defender gets much credit, especially so when you are beating teams convincingly every week, but I thought his willingness to get on the ball and bring it up the pitch with some well timed runs really added another dimension to our play down the left. I have mentioned a few times about how I'd like our full backs to add an extra point of attack once we'd become solid defensively and I thought he filled that role superbly.
His (and Freds) only negative was when they tried to play a ball to their opposite full back, both not quite getting it right and thus putting us under unnecessary pressure. That's always a risky ball and because it has a long way to travel it gives the opposition a real chance to pile on the pressure and nick it, if they do then they haven't got very far to go before they are one-on-one with our keeper. I'd much rather you launched it into the channel or looked for a closer pass please gents.
Tom scored a hattrick and got a lovely assist so on any other day would be looking for the award himself. I thought absolutely everyone played a big part in this victory though so you should all feel like a man of the match.