After the disappointment of the last 2 seasons of not being able to finish the cup competitions or the league calendar we were grateful to be competing in the Surrey County Cup Final at Meadowbank Stadium against Leatherhead Youth. There was a good atmosphere come kick off with good support in the stands for both teams. It was a tense start with both teams playing at a high tempo looking to gain the ascendancy. We were forced into an early change when Josh DK replaced James who was cynically scythed down and was unable to play any further part in the game. The ref chose a booking but arguably on another day could have been a red. A lengthy trip to A&E after the game saw it confirmed James suffered severe bruising to his tibia and thankfully no fracture, and we wish him a speedy recovery. We went on to create some good chances with Zahir twice going close and Luca seeing an effort well saved from close range, the ricochet landing on top of the bar and falling fortunately back to the keeper. Isaac also got up well from a corner but his header was over the bar. We were caught offside a few times when we weren’t able to find the timing of the final pass when well placed. At the other end we were looking comfortable despite Leatherhead pushing for openings. We then switched off at a corner and Leatherhead took the lead. We defended well for the rest of the half and whilst under pressure with Freddie, Isaac and Kris putting their bodies on the line and making crucial tackles and blocks with Dom also making some good interventions. HT 0-1. Into the 2nd half and Oli and Mikey were pushing on in search of the equaliser with Lewis, Luca, Josh DK and Zahir doing their best to work some openings. We were awarded a dubious penalty by the ref for handball and Freddie cooly stepped to make it 1-1 after 52 minutes. Several changes saw Erim, Luke and JJ come on to add fresh legs to try and push for the winner. However another dubious penalty was this time awarded to Leatherhead also for handball on 63 minutes which was converted despite Dom guessing the right way. With another equaliser required we threw bodies forward leaving us vulnerable at the back but we held firm. In true Rebels fashion we never gave in and got our reward in the 2nd minute of injury time when Hayden found the net. FT 2-2. The game had unfortunately not been the free flowing footballing spectacle many had hoped for and was in fact dominated by some very questionable and subjective refereeing decisions adversely affecting the flow of the game which was a real shame for a game of this magnitude. So the cup was to be decided by the dreaded penalties, an outcome neither side would have really chosen. Both sides were immaculate from the spot with the Rebels leading 4-3 until Leatherhead hit the post with their 4th spot kick, which should and would have seen us with the opportunity to step up to score our 5th spot kick (which we did) to win the cup. However, the referee inexplicably and incorrectly ordered a retake for encroachment by our GK. The IFAB rules state that if a penalty is missed or rebounds from the post or crossbar, the kick is only retaken if the goalkeepers offence clearly impacts the kicker, which it clearly had not as Dom actually dived the other way. Despite our protests the penalty was retaken and scored and Leatherhead went on to win the shootout in sudden death. Congratulations to Leatherhead whose name will forever be in the record books as winners, but a real shame for everyone involved from both sides knowing that the inability of the officials to correctly enforce the laws of the game ultimately had a direct impact on who lifted the trophy.
Obviously an extremely disappointing result for the whole squad but it was just not our day. We were extremely proud of all the boys and how they conducted themselves on and off the pitch, and were gracious and respectful to the opposition in defeat. A credit to themselves and the club. We will take some important lessons and experience from the day and aim to come back even stronger. MoM: Isaac was given the award for another mature, committed and intelligent performance.