AFC Didsbury 1 Halton Juniors 1 *** AFC Didsbury win 3-2 on penalties ***
AFC Didsbury: Rogers, Darlington, McDonald, Battersby (C), Jaffray (Hadfield), Lee (Peat), Harrison, Whiteley (Kilgour), Vasko, García García (Menghini), Corbett (Kennedy).
GOALS: Corbett ASSISTS: Peat MAN OF THE MATCH: Harrison PENALTIES SCORED: Vasko, McDonald, Kennedy
Didsbury Dump Halton out of the Cup
In decades to come, Old Didsburyians will tell their grandkids that this thriller of a quarter-final was the match that almost didn’t happen at all. It was Saturday night, and Rossi had donned his finest sweatbands (head and wrists), neon vest, and was about to crack his glowsticks - so excited was he at the thought of an unexpected night on the town without his missus holding him back. The rest of the Didsbury squad however, were delighted to hear that Turn Moss had stepped in to rescue the tie. As the team was announced and the kits were put on (there’s a story about the kits, but I value my place in the squad so no comment), the focus somehow moved from the starting XI to the subs. “This is such a strong bench”....“This bench is amazing; you guys had better play well” said Matt Kennedy, a substitute. Thankfully Kenners found room on that bench for his ego, and the game could begin.
Didsbury, famously slow starters, were at it from the off. Downhill and with the wind, chances were created early unfortunately landing too often on Gareth Lee’s sand iron of a left foot. Some one-touch play from Michael Corbett and Lloyd Darlington, and third-man running from Tom Whiteley saw the latter blast over what would have been a quality team goal. With Colin McDonald’s delivery from set-peices, captain John Battersby threatened several times, but couldn’t quite get a header on target.
Towards the end of the half, Jorge García García showed quick feet to elude two tackles and then slipped in Corbett. With only the keeper to beat, Corbett was bundled over from behind, and a spot kick correctly given. Alas, a decent pen was saved well to the keepers’ left. Other chances came and went for both sides, including one superb close range stop from Wayne Rogers to deny a certain Halton Juniors forward. His name will not feature during this report, because I don’t want this to turn into a Biggy Smalls / TuPac style feud. I’m hoping that’s a reference he’ll understand. I should mention though that he should have been sent off towards the end of the first half for kicking out after losing the ball. Congratulations to captain Battersby for showing restraint for the first time this season. Punishment clearly works, and he’s a reformed and better man for his time on the FA’s figurative naughty step.
I spent half time trying to put on as much clothing as possible, but could just about make out some positive words from manger, Adam Musson. ‘Keep going’, seemed to be the main message. And keep going we did. Despite now playing against the wind, and uphill, Didsbury remained the better side. Composure on the ball, notably from Pavol Vasko and Ben Jaffray, and dogged defending from the indefatigable (look it up) Matt Harrison and Darlington, maintained our superiority. At the back, McDonald was nicking the ball at will, and Battersby was cushioning headers down to his full backs like a slightly worse looking Emre Can. Needing a breakthrough, manager Musson turned to the aforementioned quality-laden bench. Ross Menghini and Rick Peat got the call (Kenners presumably wanted to stay on the bench, to maintain that high quality), and Didsbury finally got what they deserved. Breaking fast, Peat “ghosted” past his fullback and curled in an absolute belter of a cross. Corbett met it with his left peg and sent a volley sweetly into the bottom corner. 1-0.
Frankly, that should have been it. Rogers was barely troubled, and Vasko created further chances to put the game to bed. One such effort seemed destined to find the bottom corner, but the Halton Juniors’ keeper made another strong save. With about ten minutes to go, however, Harrison’s 148th tackle of the game was both unintentional and ill timed. On the edge of the box he slipped, and took he-who-must-not-be-named’s legs away. Despite the ball having been cleared, the ref pointed to the spot for a second time. Penalty scored, 1-1. And so with the weather deteriorating rapidly, it became too cold and rainy for any further quality football, and the match ended in disappointing fashion.
So to penalties we went. The ref spent a few minutes doing some weird marching thing, and then pointed to a certain piece of mud. I think it went a bit like this. I forget the order of the pens, but Vasko’s knee slide at his successful ‘first ever penalty’ was a memorable sight. Their captain sent their first wide. McDonald scored, and so did Kenners. Liam ‘I’ve never missed a pen’ Hadfield of course did just that, but thankfully it didn’t matter. Rogers made two saves – the crucial one preventing Halton Juniors’ star man from prolonging the arctic epic, and sending us through to the semis.