AFC Didsbury 4
GOALS: M Darlington (2), Menghini, Smith
ASSISTS: Peat, Smith, L Darlington, Kennedy
MAN OF THE MATCH: Smith
When Are They Guna Believe Us... We're Going To Brantingham Road
Three days had passed since a humbling league defeat, and the end of Gaz New’s personal "invincible" season. Tears were shed *. Nonetheless he, and the rest of the Didsbury’s squad, set out determined to show the quality missing from our last few performances, and to give our season a fitting cup-final ending.
The tie was, to make a cheap analogy with the weather, a scorcher. Our opponents are cruising to their league title undefeated, and had already booked themselves one final. Didsbury believe reaching multiple cup finals is the work of greedy meanies. Also, we really really wanted one.
In spite of weather that even post-Coachella Matt Kennedy was finding warm, both teams set a high tempo throughout. Meanwhile Eugene Agyeman caught some rays and sought to scare and/or distract the opposition with his nude torso.
Didsbury’s opener saw Rick Peat schooling their full back (some of these are subtle, try to keep up); his swivel and low shot could only be parried, Matt Darlington was sharpest to the rebound, and his cool finish gave us the lead. Quality was high from both sides, but defences remained mostly on top, and the half finished 1-0.
Both teams sought to build play directly. Their number 9 and Didsbury’s Kieran Smith probably know each other from the gym. The pair showed strength and bravery throughout, but Smith showed he was more than just a battering ram shortly after time. Not content with laying the ball off, he turned his man and drove into the box. Supporting was the prolific Ross Menghini, who took a pass, dropped his shoulder past the diving defender, and slotted in the second.
If long throws are what you’re into, this was a veritable feast of javelins, hurled repeatedly from the rather narrow dimensions of the playing area. John Battersby, Matt Kendrick and Matt Harrison put their valuable and not unsightly heads on the line all day dealing with the aerial threat.
Didsbury’s resistance was broken by a frankly superb header from the aforementioned opposition target man, bringing them right back into the game.
A drinks break (in May! Take that, global warming naysayers) came at a good time for Didsbury to re-group. James Leighton kindly went on a water run, and his missus even more kindly carried said water back to the pitch, on account of Leighton’s current digital impairment. In his place Wayne Rogers was superb throughout with immaculate kicking and taking several dangerous crosses into his hands. We’ve almost forgotten he used to play outfield.
Lloyd Darlington linked up with Matt Darlington all afternoon with incredible chemistry, leading many onlookers to wonder whether they could almost be brothers. In any case, Lloyd produced a deft clip that this time found the considerable head of Kieran Smith, who helped it on into the corner, and restored the two goal lead.
As the opponents necessarily pushed on, the game for the first time opened up. Darlington, the younger one, could therefore use his pace, and promptly found himself one on one twice. Twice he outpaced the last line of defence, twice he coolly stepped around the goalkeeper, but for some reason only once did he remember to actually put the ball in the net. 4-1.
For the last fifteen minutes Didsbury continued to defend resolutely with substitutes getting stuck in (Jonathan Mackie), running quickly (Agyeman) and having ridiculous pot shots from 40 yards (Gaz New). It was truly a team performance of hard work and quality in equal measure.
The opponents showed plenty themselves and never gave up. Their performance showed why they will be real contenders in our division next year, and they also invited us for a drink afterwards which is just lovely. In fact, the slow-cooked beef stew with crowd-pleasing tiger bread baguette was a delightful end to a thoroughly enjoyable day **.
A cup final awaits. Top work lads.
*I’m guessing here.
**On leaving I tried to find the chef to pry secrets of said stew, but having already taken the sporting spoils, I suppose it was greedy to ask for that elusive recipe also. Nutmeg. I bet it was a pinch of nutmeg.
Words by Gareth Lee
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