Devon County FA Cup Semi-Final
Sunday February 8th 2015
WILLAND ROVERS 2 MANSTOW YOUTH 0 Jones, Vittles (HT 0-0)
Willand’s under 18s won a competitive County Cup semi-final at Silver Street to make it a club double after Scott Rogers’ 1st XI won their Les Phillips tie at Bridport the day before.
But actually getting the game on had its dramas again.
Last week the pitch was waterlogged and this week great efforts were made to salvage the surface after over zealous contractors drove their tractor over it. Well done to all those who laid so much sand down. And then today, the kick-off was delayed by 30 minutes because Manstow were caught up in long delays on the A38.
At 2:30, though, Graeme Martin got the game under way with Willand attacking the Traffic Lights End. The pace started off well, with both teams trying to find the early advantage – preferably a goal! Willand were definitely up for it and probed the Manstow flanks through Jake Tillett and Nathan Antat frequently.
Manstow looked to drop the ball in behind Willand’s rearguard but Alex Wright, Ashley Matthews, Jordan Major and Jack Rawlings were resolute, In midfield, Reece Kingdom was once again outstanding and this gave Jordan Bastin the opportunity to feed the wings and the forwards.
It was a tough surface for the forwards, Tarji Jones and Sam Johnson. Playing much of the time with their back to goal, they held play up well in the middle third but in the box, all too often the final pass wasn’t accurate enough.
The first shot actually came from Manstow but then Willand started to push hard. Antat got to the touchline 3-4 times and only good blocking prevented a shot on target. Tillet also got through and two flashing drives missed the far right post by inches while Bastin, Kingdom, Jones and Johnson.
At the other end, a superbly struck free-kick narrowly missed the bar although Jez Cross probably had it covered.
After the break and with the hosts attacking the Car Park End, Willand were firing on all cylinders now. Antat was really in the groove now, taking his marker all the way to the goal line several times before the last skirmish saw them bundled into the advertising hoarding with a loud crash. Antat got a booking while the Manstow player got treatment – hard to see how either player at full tilt could have avoided such an outcome.
The break seemed to end Willand’s early 2nd half dominance as Manstow started to find their passing rhythm but Matthews’ rearguard was outstanding today and Cross was good for the crosses.
Then a goal to Willand. Having worked his socks off to get into position whenever Antat tricked his way forward, Jones broke into the box to collect a neat pass inside the centre-halves. One touch and his low shot flew past the ‘keeper. It was very deserved.
But Manstow weren’t done and they had some good possession and the odd dangerous freekick position. While Willand looked for a second, Manstow came closer and closer. Some last ditch defending and the top of the crossbar defied them and then Jez Cross made the save of the match when he held a low shot at his near post. At the other end JJ’s powerful shot cleared the bar by inches and twice chances went begging in the visitors box from low crosses.
Then an error – Manstow’s centre-half who’d had a good game until now, tried to turn and play the ball to his keeper but mishit it, JJ was on it in a second and slipped the keeper expertly for 2-0 with 15 minutes to go.
The last quarter of an hour was quite open. Willand searched for a third while Manstow sought a grandstand finish. Bastin came mighty close when 1v1 while the Plymouth side had a shout for a penalty late on but Major was too close to avoid a point blank shot.
The final whistle went and Willand Rovers celebrated going into the County Cup Final. Manstow were gracious in defeat and hopefully they had a quicker trouble-free drive home.
All the team played well today. Grateful for the match against Alphington 2 weeks ago, which brought back some match sharpness. Willand did play very well at times today and with a little more luck, they might have won by a slightly bigger margin. But a win is a win.
Thanks to all those who came to todays match and to Catherine Cross in the kitchen! See you at Coach Road in a few months……….