Cheshire blow Glos boys away with whirlwind start before Murray magic lifts mood
GLOUCESTERSHIRE FA Under-18 manager Calum Wands admits a whirlwind Cheshire FA start had caught his talented starlets by surprise in their big FA County Youth Cup quarter-final bout at Oaklands Park, writes Simon Parkinson.
Our talented representative side, full of hope that they could at least go one better than last season’s semi-final feat and reach the final of this year’s prestigious national tournament, were beaten 4-2 on penalties by guests Cheshire to take an agonising tumble at the last-eight hurdle after the teams had been locked at 2-2 following a draining extra-time period.
Cheshire had capitalised on heavy early normal-time pressure by taking the lead, albeit via an unfortunate own goal by Glos right-back Steve Kaca as he tried to clear his lines after his keeper Joe Wright had made a fine save from a long-range attempt.
Unfazed, the hosts came roaring back with a magnificent piece of skill by Jay Murray, who, with his back to goal, plucked a Cheshire clearance from the air with nimble footwork before turning sharply and letting fly with a searing 25-yard strike into the top corner of the net.
Buoyed by that equalising artistry, Gloucestershire entered the interval 2-1 ahead as debutant Owen Windsor, the Hartpury and Cirencester Town starlet, fastened on to a raking diagonal left-sided pass from Andre Freckleton and get in front of his man before slotting away his opportunity confidently from a one-on-one position with the stranded Cheshire keeper.
In a nip-and-tuck second half, in which both sides defended well and carved decent chances, it was the away side who netted the only goal midway through the period, albeit in contentious circumstances from the penalty spot as Glos centre-half Sam Larkins was adjudged to have bundled over the livewire Cheshire striker inside the box.
Extra-time it was, then, and after another tight 30 minutes had passed relatively uneventfully, it was the jubilant visitors who prevailed 4-2 from the spot, despite Wright making another splendid stop to keep his side in the shoot-out.
Glos boss Wands acknowledged: “Cheshire came out for the start in the way we’d intended to do.
“We knew they’d travelled down for an overnight in Bristol so we’d looked to exploit any weary heads in their camp. But it didn’t turn out that way at all and they came out at us all guns blazing.”
Check out Local Football News on Wednesday for: How Gloucestershire FA Under-18 aim to turn negative into a positive.