The stones were today involved in one of the most entertaining games you’ll see for a while.
48 hrs before kickoff, the rain started and didn't stop until the final whistle. With many big players missing from the Stones line up due to injuries, suspensions and holidays we were a very makeshift side to say the least. Needless to say, the Stones were kind of hoping for a water logged pitch, which never materialised. With the help of a deadline day signing in Lewis Hutchinson we were able to make a bare 11. Our chances of getting a result against higher grade Social seemed slim to none. Miraculously, Irving (club physio) went from being unfit due to a torn hamstring to being ‘ok’ if he took some pain killers 2hrs before kick off. However, this said it shows how far as a team the Stones have come as this time 3 years ago we would of had to forfeit the match and pay the fine. The Stones rallied together and showed character to give it a go and see what happens.
As the game started, the Stones actually started the brighter, creating a few issues at the back for social. The pitch certainly played it's part at both ends early on with the grass so long you couldn't even find your feet. Passes were being mis-placed, falling short continuously at both ends.
The opening goal came from a long ball down the left flank from Kaine, which found Hand running the channel. The social keeper rushed out and lunged at Hand who done very well to avoid the challenge and keep on his feet, he then cut back inside and the keeper made sure this time if he couldn't get the ball he would definitely get the man. Penalty awarded and up stepped the experienced Cusden who dispatched brilliantly. 1 0 Stones.
This seemed to give the Stones more confidence and we continued to dictate the ball, especially Manning in midfield who was pressing Socials midfielders all game. 1 soon became 2 for Hastonians with Burton finding himself in space 30 yds out and with the keeper off his line had the cheek to lob the stranded keeper! Great finish. 2-0 stones.
Social seemed to wake up after going 2 down and pressed in their attack. In the 29th minute St Leonard’s were awarded a free kick for a clumsy challenge by Davies and the social left back took full advantage and sent the free kick straight into the top corner. 2-1.
This didnt affect Stones too much and were soon awarded a free kick of their own. Cusden stepped up to take it with the ball coming back off the crossbar and falling to the chest of Hand who had the simplest of chances to tap in from 2 yds. 3-1 Stones.
Social hit back when an attack wasn't dealt with by the Stones defence and fell to Socials midfielder who slammed it home from 25yds. Half time couldn’t come sooner to re-group, but before it did, Social found themselves one on one with Saunders and was brought down for a penalty. Up he steps.....miss. Close call for Stones and what seemed like justice for a generous penalty.
The next goal was key. On 56th minute we did, Davies doing superb down the right and unselfishly pulled the ball back to Hand who was composed to slot the ball into the bottom right. 4-2 stones.
Social made changes and put fresh legs in the midfield and this proved pivotal in the game as the makeshift Stones side were pretty much done. Social started to dominate from this point on and scored 3 quick fire-goals to take a 5-4 lead.
Socials right winger being very influential in their attacks and Saunders did brilliantly to keep Socials continuous attempts out, the score could have been more.
With the game now pittering out and the Stones just running on empty we had one more push, corner....
Burton delivered and Matthews challenged the jump with the Social keeper. The ball fell to Cusden’s feet who managed to poke home from 2 yds out. 5-5 full time. What a game!
The Stones really didn't want extra time. The team had no subs and no energy left to give. Social grew with confidence and dominated pretty much all of the extra time. Conceding 2 goals early on killed the Stones confidence and really gave an impossible task to pull it back. Especially after Cusden trying to chip it over the on rushing striker only to catch it too much and send it straight through to socials other striker who had the simple task to slot it past the on rushing Saunders. I think Cusden will be getting a fine for that one. The 2nd half of extra time saw Social score another which finished the game off.
Final score Social 9 Stones 5
Congratulations to St Leonard’s Social, best of luck in next round. The Stones go again next week in cup action against Northiam II
The stones man of the match was debutant Karl Manning