Following on from a recent improvement in form, we found ourselves entering the ISFA quarter finals against Royal Russell, with what can only be described, as modest optimism. Despite knowing full well that we had the quality to progress through to the next stage, we were also aware of the highly-regarded opposition that stood between us and a place in the semi-finals. Having won the ISFA Sixes tournament in pre-season, our opposition found themselves as the favourites; however, on paper it should’ve been an even encounter.
And so it was, the game began and was extremely cagey in the opening stages of the game, and perhaps a little edgy, as many players didn’t want to risk too much early on. As the game progressed it was the home side who began to dominate the match however chances were still few and far between as neither ourselves nor Russell could carve out a clear-cut opportunity. A sustained period of pressure from Russell saw them awarded a throw-in, deep inside our half, and up stepped their Rory Delap with a long throw. After looking solid throughout the game as a back four a brief lapse in concentration cost us the opening goal, as the long throw provoked fatal confusion within our box. At this point, it would have been easy for us to roll over; regardless, we managed to launch ourselves straight back into the game with intense pressure and a constant threat up front. The boys leading the line for us really did spear head our desire for a goal, and with some technically class touches and passages of clever play, we found ourselves, once again, with a foothold in the game. The first half drew rapidly to a close, yet we managed to snatch back a vital goal before the break through a Jamie Platts strike. After scenes of ecstatic celebration and relief, we managed to compose ourselves and see out the half.
The second half was underway, and much like the first, it was notably close with neither side able to gain an advantage over the other. As we began to tire, the game became far more physical. Tackles were flying in hard and emotions began to get to players on both sides. Such actions began to create openings for both teams but none were taken advantage of and the prospect of extra time was increasingly inevitable. Despite the 90 minutes being nearly up, both teams were still gunning for that crucial goal to see them through to the next round, yet it did not come and we faced extra time.
Extra time was much of the same story. Tiring legs on both teams opened up the game and chances became free flowing in a game that had developed into an end-to-end battle between two class outfits. Although we seemed to be pinning Russell in to their own half onto their back foot, the certainty of a penalty shootout was also becoming more and more predictable. As the whistle blew for full-time, I was both relieved to still be in with a chance, yet knew that missed chances may come back to be a regret for us. So penalties it was… and to be honest it was not a penalty shoot out to be admired. The first five penalties of the shootout were missed, and it fell to Russell to take the advantage. They did so and despite Orlando neatly tucking away his penalty, we could do nothing but watch our opposition secure their position as ISFA Semi Finalists.
Our journey was over in the tournament and that journey home from Royal Russell seemed to last forever. Even though I was still fresh with disappointment I could only reflect on the game and say that we really did give it our best shot, and that the quote “you win some and you lose some” really does some up the game.
James Garrard (F, 1YS)