The UNITS travelled to Worcs Prem Champions WCT Raiders in the semi-final of the Nursing Cup, the game going ahead at the 4th attempt of asking after all the previous cancellations. We knew WCT were a strong side and team selection wasn't helped by Tom, Gilo and skipper Taylor all being absent, it meant Mala had to come in for his first game in 3 months and Ryan for his first start since October as we lined up: Mala, DJ, Ben, Millette, Ryan, Newt, Azza, Jay, Lewis, Ashton and Seeks. Subs were Chinner, Baker, Barney and Trigger.
Surprisingly WCT lined up with a lone striker and packed the midfield early on but the UNITS were more than holding their own and had the game’s best chance on 10 minutes when Ashton did well to slide in Seeks who from 15 yards shot across the keeper but just wide of the post. WCT moved the ball well but hadn't had a shot of note to date yet just as the UNITS really started to take control we gifted them the opener when a daisy cutter of a 25 yard effort bobbled in front of Mala and he spilled the ball to the midfielder following up and he took a touch before stroking home to give the home side the lead. This perked up WCT who had shown nothing to back up their mouthy arrogance to date but credit to the UNITS as we kept going at them. Ashton was having a fine game and he shot narrowly wide from 20 yards after some nice build up play.
You could see the belief growing in the UNITS and on 25 minutes we deservedly drew level, Azza whipped in a corner which Ashton headed towards goal, their keeper came for the ball but lost out in the aerial dual to Sean who headed into the top corner to level up the game at 1-1. The momentum was now all with the visitors although we had one lucky escape when Ryan lost the ball on the half way line their striker getting away, Ryan making a recovering tackle on the edge of the box which the ref deemed to be a fair tackle, if it wasn't you had to feel Ryan would have walked. The UNITS were then inches away from taking the lead when Azza tested the keeper from a free kick he could only parry the ball against the bar and from the loose ball Newt's stabbed goal wards only for the keeper to push onto the inside of the post and the ball to be hacked off the line. The game was then held up for 10 minutes as a torrential hail storm came down and the ref took the players from the pitch until the worst passed.
Alas when we got under way this seemed to do us no favours as within a minute we fell behind. A ball was switched to Pountney but he lost out to their full back, their midfielder then dinked a ball in behind a static UNITS back line and their striker ran away as we appealed in vain for offside, Mala came out to meet him but he rolled it square to the on rushing midfielder to tap into the empty net 2-1. In the 5 minutes before half time the UNITS were camped in the WCT final 3rd in almost a carbon copy of the earlier chance their keeper could only parry a shot and Jay was about to tap into the net before he was tackled from behind and the WCT defender getting a touch on the ball for a corner despite penalty appeals from the visitors. Then after some lovely football involving Newt, Ashton and Azza Seeks received the ball on the penalty spot and had a bit of space yet he mis-kicked with his right foot and the keeper saved comfortably.
Half Time WCT 2 v 1 TS UNITS
It was a travesty the UNITS were behind at half time as the tactics seemed spot on and we had really took the game to WCT, pressing high up the pitch and winning the ball and causing them a host of problems. Cuzer asked the boys to maintain the tempo and clearly the game was there to be won.
However, on 50 minutes we found ourselves 4-1 down as two early goals killed our challenge. Alas we were the gift that kept on giving and only had ourselves to blame, a theme that continued for the rest of the half. Firstly Azza lost the ball in a dangerous area and the striker was played in he scuffed his shot and Mala got a hand to it but the ball bobbled over the line and then 2 minutes later a cross came in from their right and DJ under no pressure was caught in two minds and could only divert the ball into his own net. Obviously the UNITS were now shell shocked and WCT played with more confidence of having the 3 goal cushion as the moved the ball better than us and one great ball across our box was begging to be turned home but two WCT players couldn't get a touch.
Cuzer then introduced Barney for Ryan on the hour mark, Ryan giving his all in his first start for 6 months and coming into a difficult game. We also shuffled our shape to 3 at the back as we chased a way back into the game. For the next 10 minutes we played some lovely stuff as WCT seemed to struggle with our new system, Jay was finding space and he threaded the ball to Seeks who from 30 yards hit a screamer their keeper turned over at full stretch, from the corner Millette headed across goal and once more the ball was hacked off the line. On 65 minutes Seeks did well to roll the centre half just inside the WCT half as he accelerated into the box he got the shot off as he was clattered from behind, the shot going just over. The linesman seemed keen to give the penalty but after discussion the referee gave only the goal kick, a double blow for the UNITS as Seeks had to come off with an ankle injury picked up in the challenge, Trigger replacing him in a like for like swap.
On 70 minutes we pulled one back which was no more than we deserved when Trigger won a header in the box and Ashton ran on and slammed the ball into the top corner from 12 yards. At 4-2 it was game on and seconds later Jay charged down their keepers kick and with a gaping goal the ball whistled inches past the post. However within 2 minutes we shot ourselves in the foot again when from a UNITS attack the WCT defender hoofed the ball 60 yards down the pitch, Sean misjudged the bounce and then got in a mix up with Mala resulting in their striker nipping in and rolling the ball into an unguarded net, a real blow to our chances as we had just got back into the game and that really was that. Baker then replaced Newt's with 10 left. We still kept plugging away, Pountney shot wide from 20 yards, Jay fizzed a low effort inches past the post with the keeper beaten but with 5 minutes left Ben sold Mala short with a back pass, Mala won the 50/50 but the ball rolled free to their winger who cut inside and easily stroked the ball past the man on the line to wrap up a rather flattering 6-2 win for the home side as the UNITS bowed out of the Nursing Cup at the semi-final stage.
Underlying emotion for all of us really was a massive missed opportunity, as good as they are WCT we had more of the ball and more chances on goal just some hesitant defending and missed opportunities cost us a chance to be in the final.
However, next Sunday we are as we take on Redditch outfit CBH Fasteners in the final of the Worcs Junior Cup as we try to pick up our first silver wear of the season.
Man of the match today went to Ashton who was superb all over the park and didn't deserve to be on the losing side.