It was a sunny afternoon with a brisk wind, pitch nicely covered in grass but with a real slope from right to left.
The game got underway with with the home team going downhill with the wind behind them, with conditions in their favour Houghton made the early play, happy to launch plenty of longer balls and try and put the Hurricanes under pressure. A defence which was outstanding the previous week looked a little wobbly, a few mistimed clearances and failure to clear first time, had the away supporters hearts in mouths, however Houghton couldn’t take advantage of their early dominance.
Gradually the Hurricanes started to feel their way in the game, getting hold of the ball midfield and launching some attacking foray’s the game had more of an even feel about it. Hougton had good chance to take the lead, again some nervy defending allowed a shot which Hayden did well to parry away low to his right. It had a positive effect on Houghton as the piled on the pressure, again a defensive error presented a half chance but the shot was weak and straight at Hayden. At the other end, Benji played a lovely ball to Louie who took the ball in his stride and fired a powerful shot with his left foot, which clipped the top of the bar and went behind for a goal kick. It signaled a good spell for home team, Benji an attacking force in the game, chipped a ball over the top for Louie, the defender grabbed his arm and then his shirt to pull him back and the keeper gathered, it looked a certain penalty but neither the Referee or his assistant seemed to have spotted the infringement. The Hurricanes defence seemed to have settled their nerves and as the half came to an end Houghton were restricted to just a few long range shots, none of which troubled Hayden.
A positive half time team talk, we had survived some early pressure and eventually settled in to the game, with the slope of the pitch and wind behind us in the second half, we felt the game was ours for the taking.
Second half kicked off and it was the Hurricanes in ascendance, putting the pressure on the home defence, who were having the same problems as the away did in the first half. Hurricanes spent the first ten minutes of the half on the front foot, Houghton were now offering hardly any attacking threat. A throw from the right hand side of the box from Alex, was flicked on by Louie, Joe got his body in front of the defender and headed it back to Louie to smash home from 6 yards out 0-1. Hurricanes had a deserved lead and were looking to finish things off, Benji causing havoc in the second half with his balance and quick feet, danced through two challenges, played to Joe who side footed first time for the oncoming Louie centre of goal 10 yards out he lent back and ballooned the ball over the bar, it was great chance to kill the game off. Houghton were starting to cut a frustrated bunch, the back four of Marley, Jack E, Keiron and Aaron, all working hard to snuffle out any threat, all they had to offer was a couple of long range shots. With fifteen minutes left they switched to a back three and added an extra forward. It opened the game up and it was the Hurricanes who looked like they would add to their lead, isolating defenders in 1 v 1 situations, they had several opportunities to put the game out of sight, but just chose the wrong option on two or three occasions.
So it all comes down to the last minute, Houghton having one final push throwing bodies forward, a cross comes in and Alex skews his clearance out for a corner. The resulting corner saw every player on the pitch in the away teams 18 yard box, the corner was sent over, a Houghton player got a head to it at the front post, the net bustled, a cheer went up from the home supporters………… and then Houghton players dropped to their knees as they knew it had just hit the side netting, the Referee blew the final whistle much to the relief of the away supporters and team.
Summary: It was a typical semi final, nervy and edgy. We weathered some pressure for 15 minutes in the first half, settled in to the game and showed some resilience. Second half we were much more in control and had some opportunities to increase the lead, and fully deserved the win.
M.O.T.M: There were some excellent performances today, Hayden made a really good save in the first half and was clean in his handling all game, all of the defence and midfield recovered from a wobbly start to impose themselves on the game, Marley in particular doing exceptionally well playing at this level, but this weeks award goes to Benji, who caused the opposition all sorts of problems and kept us on the front foot in the second half.