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.
AFC Didsbury: Stiff, Johnson, McDonald (C), Hadfield, Darlington (Musson), Whiteley, Harrison, Vasko, García García (Wallace), Corbett, Kennedy (New).
GOALS: Vasko (2), García García ASSISTS: Kennedy, García García, Corbett MAN OF THE MATCH: Vasko
No love lost as Didsbury come out on top
The Valentines weekend saw a depleted Didsbury squad take on Nello James who were fresh off the back of a 6-4 victory over Halton Juniors. With a lot of the players putting the “close the gate” warm up to good use until the early hours it allowed the manager a rare foray into his player/manager role as he named himself on the bench.
Given the weekend it may have surprised many that Didsbury’s own ginger Neuer, Mike Stiff, was able to walk following his ruthless degrading of his female captive the night before, let alone make his debut between the sticks.
It was a dominant start for Didsbury and for once this yielded an early goal. A long ball by Matt Kennedy caused the Nello keeper to sprint off his line and scuff a clearance straight to the feet of Pavol Vasko who lobbed the ball first time over the retreating goalkeeper into the far corner.
Didsbury remained much the better side but it was a long ball over the top that almost undid all their hard work. The whippet of a striker beat the offside trap and bore down on goal but must have momentarily been star struck as Prince Harry came out to meet him. Stiff was able to save well and hold on to the ball in a situation which should have brought Nello level.
That was to be Nello’s only sight of goal in the first half and seemed to kick Didsbury back into action as the solitary goal lead was shown to be a precarious one.
The second goal was not long in coming (something which I am all too familiar with) and was, in the words of Battersby, “a magnificent goal, simple as that”. Magnificent it certainly was though as Didsbury worked the ball from left to right, then down the right flank near the corner flag. With seemingly nowhere to go a quick one two gets the ball into the penalty area and then 3 one touch passes later it is at the feet of our favourite Eastern European, who sees his first attempt saved but makes no mistake with the second, smashing it into the back of the net. Ruud Gullit coined the term “sexy football” and now I understood what he meant as I felt the snake stir in appreciation.
It was looking comfortable for Didsbury, so much so that manager, Adam Musson, was being allowed to experiment and so he let Kenners have some shooting practice, but this came to an abrupt end as they were posing a threat to low flying aircraft. Musson then allowed Tom Whiteley into the box but when the ball found him 8 yards out it was his control that yielded the goal kick rather than his shooting. At the other end the lack of action meant Stiff forgot where he was as he lapsed into 5-a-side rules and tried to roll out of his hands from a goal kick.
Eventually a third goal did arrive. Man of the match Vasko dances past a couple of players on the left before delivering a sublime cross into the 6 yard box where 3 unmarked Didsbury players wait. However rather than simply smashing it in, they decided to show what a great team spirit we have by letting each of them have a touch before Jorge García García applied the finishing touch.
3-0 at half time and fully deserved.
Nello came out in the second half knowing that if they could get an early goal then they may yet be able to salvage from the game. Didsbury's first half dominance was not repeated in the first 15 minutes as Nello gave as good as they got but neither side were able to test either keeper.
As the hour mark approached the first change were made as Jack Wallace came on for the impressive Garcia Garcia, and so switching the team to the classic 4-4-2 formation. Was it this change of formation or was it a lapse in concentration but soon after the change Nello finally got the goal they had been looking for. The ball looked to be going harmlessly out for a Didsbury goal kick, being shepherded out by the ever watchful Colin McDonald, but then out of nowhere the Nello forward nipped around him and got a toe on it to poke it back into the 6 yard area. Stiff and the other striker launched themselves at the ball but it broke kindly for the Nello forward and he was able to slot it into the empty net. 3-1.
Nello were pushing up the pitch now and this was leaving them vulnerable at the back. Wallace, back in the squad after eye surgery, latched onto a huge Stiff kick which deceived the Nello defence, but despite his perfect vision he failed to see the keeper was stood on his line so his attempted lob was a waste.
Vasko continued to be a thorn in the Nello's right side as he repeatedly skipped past the full back to deliver tantalising crosses, the first fell to Wallace who scuffed his shot wide, and the second to Kenners who failed to make contact with the goal gaping. That was all but his last contribution as Mr Muscle himself, Gaz New, took his place.
New gave Didsbury a new dimension allowing them to play the ball in behind. And it was good play from New which saw his crossed headed clear to Whiteley. His eyes lit up as it fell beautifully for a first time volley. The whole of Didsbury held their breath as he catches it perfectly and like a missile it bares down on goal. The same thing runs through every Didsbury players head “I'm still hearing about that scuffed goal he scored back in November, how many times will I have to hear this one?”. Fortunately, the Nello defender did everyone a favour by putting in a superb block and not only keeping Nello in the game but saving the Didsbury team from going voluntarily deaf.
Nello were having more of the ball but all the chances were falling to Didsbury. The only time they looked in danger was when they overplayed it at the back causing McDonald to make a couple of excellent last ditch tackles to avert the danger.
At this stage New was so confident of his pace he was mocking the Nello defence as he walked around them with his hands in his pockets, or perhaps just prepping himself for the post-match shower.
As the game entered the final 15 minutes hard man Vasko was again in the thick of the action. Vasko known for his love of a good scrap was deemed to have taken down the man mountain at the back unfairly by the referee and whilst they exchanged words he was slapped which unbelievably went unpunished.
With 2 minutes to go the Didsbury defence passed the ball straight to the Nello striker in the area and he was able to jink past his marker before firing past Stiff into the far corner.
Despite the possibility of a nervy few minutes, with the exception of Musson being “backed into by their winger” and then falling over claiming a penalty, which was emphatically not given by the ref, Didsbury comfortably saw the game out. Relief all round but not least for Stiff’s woman as she would only have to enact out chapters 6-14 of 50 Shades of Grey, as he was in a good mood, as he and Didsbury left with the 3 points.
AFC Didsbury: Leighton, Mackie (Bermingham), Johnson, Whiteley, Jaffray, Lee, Harrison (C), Kilgour (García García), Menghini (New), Corbett, Kennedy.
GOALS: Harrison, Menghini, Whiteley ASSISTS: Kennedy (2), New MAN OF THE MATCH: Leighton
Didsbury Bank their Place in the Quarter Finals
On a misty morning, so cold John Snow and the Nightswatch would have had to put an extra pair of socks on, AFC Didsbury, prepared to take on Firbank of Division 2 in the JA Kennedy Cup.
With manager, Adam Musson, hoping the ‘magic of the cup’ would not strike another footballing giant and he’d be left doing his best Mourinho impression, AFC Didsbury set about their task. Early signs showed that he needn’t of worried with luxury centre forward Matt Kennedy pulling the best from Firbank’s No1 twice in the opening few minutes. The first a tip over the bar from a superb left footed shot from 25 yards out, after the defence had backed off in awe. The second from point blank range as Kennedy had brought the ball down and athletically volleyed after some pin ball action from a corner.
Didsbury continued to pile on the pressure and 15 minutes in, they had their reward. Another corner was sent into the box, which the away side failed to clear and Kennedy from the edge of the box, threaded a pass through two onrushing players into Matt Harrison’s feet, who finished from 6 yards. 5 minutes later, once again Kennedy turned provider, after some neat work down the wing with Jonathan Mackie, Kennedy found himself on the by-line. With a swish of his right wand, Kennedy sent in an arcing ball for which Wembley Stadium or ‘Joan of’ would have been proud of. Arriving at the back post was Ross Menghini who finished from 10 yards.
In the later stages of the first half Firbank grew into the game, cutting out the supply to Kennedy, and keeping the ball well in mid-field but for all their good play could only forge a couple of chances, which were wasted thanks to poor finishing and a great save from Leighton.
AFC Didsbury are renowned for their charity work and 5 minutes into the 2nd half Musson continued this trend into the match by substituting Kennedy, but not before he tested the keeper once more, Firbank’s No1 again coming to their rescue getting a toe to a Kennedy flick after a superb ball from Spanish Ladies’ man García García.
In the second half Didsbury failed to get out of second gear, which invited pressure from the away team. As the half went on Firbank found their shooting boots, but as they did, Leighton continued to be a brick wall and despite having the distribution of a blind postman, he was plucking saves out from the top draw and keeping Didsbury’s lead intact. Even after Didsbury increased the deficit when Tom Whiteley tapped in from a corner, Leighton was on hand to save Harrison’s blushes with an excellent penalty save from little Charlton.
Firbank rallied to get a deserved consolation goal and just like all those Friday night Babestation sessions, this spoilt Leighton’s dreams of keeping a clean sheet. Winter cobwebs were blown away and Didsbury march on to the next round.