Goals: Vasko, Lee Assists: Peat, Vasko Man of the Match: Vasko
Didsbury show up Halton as Juniors to reach first cup final
The sun was out on this momentous occasion. AFC Didsbury were attempting to reach their first cup final in their short but rich history. Thoughts of an open top bus through the streets of Didsbury were playing on the minds of the players. But were these dreams of glory due to be killed off by Halton Juniors and driven away by the ‘pimp my ride’ hearse parked in the car park? The importance of the day was further underlined by the emergence of two assistant referees. This was not a day for substitutes to be aimlessly waving the luminous flags.
Any thoughts of the legendary John Old Cup Final were quickly put on hold as Halton Juniors started brightly; closing down Didsbury possession and sending crosses into the Didsbury box. The pressure of the situation was almost too much for Didsbury’s biggest fan, Hannah Harrison, and Didsbury’s eternal mascot, Dingo, to bear as they started to pace up and down the touchline.
Didsbury’s midfield maestro, Neil Creasey, was obviously still getting over the fact that Stuart Pearce’s reign as Forest manager will not be starting in the Premier League. The new centre back partnership of John Battersby and Colin McDonald were standing firm, not giving the Halton strikers a sniff of James Leighton’s goal. The vertically challenged, Adam Musson, was even winning headers against Usain Bolt’s doppelganger.
Slowly but surely Didsbury’s midfield general, Tom Whiteley, and Creasey started to dominate the central areas allowing the trio of Gaz Lee, Rick Peat and Pavol Vasko to stretch the Halton defence. Didsbury’s lone front man, Matt Harrison, continued to work tirelessly up top, not allowing his opponents any time on the ball. The Didsbury machine was starting to purr and chances started to come.
First, Rick Peat (with his lovely feet) smashed the ball against the foot of the post. Didsbury’s belief was certainly starting to grow. Suddenly, with the ball bouncing around the box, Whiteley pounced, steering the ball passed the keeper and into the back of the net! Could Didsbury dare to dream? No! The linesman’s outstretched arm ruled the goal out for offside. Undeterred, Didsbury continued to attack with verve and panache. A Vasko and Harrison delightful one-two, reminiscent of Ronaldo and Rivaldo, split the Halton defence, culminating with Vasko placing the ball against the frame of the goal.
The woodwork had already stood in Didsbury’s way twice but finally the deadlock was broken. Peat played in Vasko with a charming through ball, allowing Didsbury’s Slovakian import to caress the ball past the onrushing keeper. 1-0! It’s moments like these when you wonder why Vasko has never received the call from Jan Kozak. The first half was called to a close after a Halton corner led to a body on the line double block by Battersby. Didsbury left the field buoyed by their performance, ready for more.
At the break, Halton brought on their star winger. The second half continued from where the first had ended. Didsbury continued to create chances. Gaz Lee’s pinpoint corner was blazed over by the size 24 feet of Battersby. The ball will be entering into orbit right about now. The second goal was coming.
Against the run of play, Halton broke. Musson, aiming for the ball, floored the Halton attacker with a trademark slide tackle. Yellow card. Surprisingly to the referee this produced a smile on Musson’s face as he realised he had equalled Ben Jaffray’s (Didsbury’s hard man) yellow cards for the season. From the resulting free kick, Halton blazed over. Didsbury weren’t having this all their own way.
Didsbury’s high pressing game almost reaped its rewards with Vasko charging the keeper down. The resulting ricochet fell to the feet of Whiteley near the halfway line. Hopes were high with Jonjo Shelvey’s goal fresh in the minds of the Didsbury bench. Unfortunately he shot narrowly over the crossbar. Again Halton broke and again Musson flew into the tackle. This time executing it well and winning the ball but leaving the Halton star in a crumpled heap on the floor. Off departed the winger into a sea of angry Halton fans. Realising the severity of the situation, Mussinho, substituted himself off for Wayne Rogers.
The Didsbury chances continued to come. A Creasey corner was side footed wide by finesmaster (hint hint) Battersby. Jack Wallace then found Creasey, who played in Vasko clear of the last defender. One on one… the keeper saves! However, the ball loops to the edge of the area for Gaz Lee to volley home past the stranded keeper. Think Zidane 2002 Champions League final. 2-0!
With the pressure off, Michael Hay on the Didsbury bench allowed himself a giggle as he remembered the bike incident of the previous week.
Halton continued to break, but McDonald and Battersby continued to show why Didsbury have the best defence in the famous Mikey Williams Premiership. With tiredness creeping in, Didsbury players continued to grit their teeth and dig deep. Full back, Jaffray, continuing to win challenge after challenge and making sure his marker remained comfortable in his back pocket. A final Halton attack ended when two forwards comically ran into each other, both immediately falling to the ground. The referee had seen enough. With three sharp blasts of the whistle, Didsbury had booked their place in the final! A truly sublime team performance.
Didsbury players left the field to chants of “Wemberly! Wemberly!” and happy in the knowledge that #GazNewOfficial can tell the girls of Didsbury he will be starring in a cup final. Now to book that open top bus…