Today was the chance to get into a Final of a very good cup competition the Wirral Junior Cup, after working hard to get our new pitch for the day in a decent sort of condition our opponents AFC Liverpool awaited us on kick off.
From the off and on an increasing worsening pitch we played some good football putting AFC Liverpool under some early pressure, James “Jim Bob” Thomas making his full debut hit one effort wide and caused early panic in the AFC defence with his trademark runs.
The wait for an early goal was not long away, after some great industrious work in the middle from Dave Leslie a neat ball inside to Adam Coulls was met with an outside of the boot pass to the returning Kevin Machin who had started the game with some menacing runs himself. Machin in turn played a neat one two with Dave Leslie who got back on the end of the pass and did tremendously well to fire a low cross in which the keeper could only palm out to the on rushing Matty Smith who rifled it into the back of the net 1-0…great team goal.
The game then got a bit sloppy a bit like the pitch and AFC had a few opportunities but the backline of Yates, Easterbrook and O’Donnell in truth stopped Jason McLaughlin in goal from ever rarely being called into action, that was until a rare lapse in concentration allowed their tall striker to bare down one on one but Jason came out superbly with a terrific save to keep us in front, a hugely important moment in the game.
The game was waiting for something to light it up a bit, and it shortly happened as Danny Curran threw himself into not one but 2 bone crunching tackles which was met with a huge roar from the following Dell crowd and his team mates, seconds later he made another terrific tackle and the ball fell kindly to Adam Coulls who played a delightful thru ball to Matty Smith and the man once again finished with aplomb to send us 2-0 up.
We started to play some decent stuff on a wretched pitch, some hard graft on the wing from Philly Lennon released Coullsy who played a long ball down the wing to Danny Curran who had made a great run he fired an inch perfect cross to Jim bob who looked set to open his account but before he could the linesman had cruelly flagged for offside when in truth he looked a yard on.
On the opposite wing Kevin Machin was causing trouble and after missing a glorious chance to put us further ahead a great run was brought to an end by a crude foul, up stepped Lee O’Donnell to rifle a low free kick which had the keeper scrambling low to collect.
We looked solid at the back and whenever they did break Easterbrook was in commanding form sweeping up, attacking everything first time and heading any trouble away with relative ease, with Smith and Leslie hitting wide the chances kept coming as the ref blew for half time.
As with the majority of our games this season we always seem to take our foot off the pedal at the start of the second half but not today not with a final at stake, from the off we looked to gain further advantage and this time it was Philly Lennon who after great play from Leslie forced the keeper into an early save.
Kevin Machin was again fouled near the by-line 30 odd yards from goal and up stepped Danny Curran to take the free kick with O’Donnell in his ear Curran was having none of it and rifled a terrific attempt all be it wind assisted right in the top corner, the keeper got a touch to it but could only touch it onto the underside of the bar and in the net 3-0 and a great start to the second half.
It soon got even better Philly Lennon played a superb thru ball to Jim Bob who finished superbly past the shell-shocked AFC Keeper to finally get the goal his industrious performance deserved 4-0.
Jim Bob looked set to score a second but his delightful chip was ruled out for offside and unlike in the first half the liner in truth got his call spot on.
Cue substitution’s James “Jim Bob” Thomas was replaced by Tom Briggs and Adam Coulls was replaced by Ryan Smith.
We didn’t stop there we sensed AFC were starting to panic and great football on the right side between Leslie and Curran saw Curran send a great cross over to the back post and with his hat trick in sight Matty smith rose but agonizingly saw his header go wide of the post.
We still had a job to do of keeping the clean sheet and Easterbrook was alert to everything which was being thrown at him as was O’Donnell and Yates beside him, Sam Yates even ventured forward on one occasion and had a pop on target the only problem was his target was our unplayable home pitch.
Yates accuracy seemed to spread to others as Philly Lennon scuffed a shot when thru one on one with the keeper easily gathering and Tom Briggs missed another when put thru cleverly by Ryan Smith.
Tom Briggs then made up for that miss by finishing off a great move which involved the impressive Leslie, Machin and Curran, all 3 kept the ball intelligently and released Ryan Smith who unselfishly played a quality ball to Briggs who placed a neat shot low into the bottom corner 5-0.
With 18 to play we reverted to 4,5,1 to stifle the game and keep things tight at the back Michael Edge came on in place of Matty Smith.
Still we battled and in truth so did AFC Liverpool who are a very young side with a lot of heart and legs and can be proud of the way they played, the game filtered out and things only started to get slightly a little worrying when Easterbrook had to be helped off the pitch when he took a baby gash to the ankle in the last 5 minutes.
The whistle went and the job was done back to winning ways and to our first final as a club something everyone can be proud of but the hard work starts now we have plenty to play for and need to get a foothold back in the league it would be a travesty if the Shafts result cost us the league and we need to put things right, with some huge games on the horizon the final can take a back seat for now but come cup final day the suits will be pressed and the lads will be ready whoever we face.
M.O.M was difficult today plenty of great performances all round and a special mention to the subs those who didn’t get on and those who did, all their attitudes were top notch, but a common theme from players, fans and indeed the opposition was the performance once again of young Danny Curran, tackling, pressing and passing everything was on show today, another great performance from himself and the lads ensured we won….roll on cup final day!!