Never has the tempo a college cup game changed so dramatically. What was for 50 minutes a rather dry encounter between Halifax 3rds and Vanbrugh 2nds, with one kick of the ball catapulted into a dramatic finale with a last ditched attempt from the thirds side to claim a place in the cup.
With Langwith having beaten James 3rds 3-0 earlier in the day, Halifax need to win by three goals in order to provide the first big upset of the tournament, becoming the only 3rds team to make it into the cup knockout stages this year.
It looked like any hope hope of fax progressing was in doubt however in the opening minutes, Liam Sides, who looked offside, running through the defense and firing a shot on goal, Tom Blessed denying the striker the opener, the follow up hooked off the line as Vanbrugh showed themselves to be the side more likely to take the lead. They continued their pressure, Watkins managed to take the ball down the by-line but failed to shrug off defender Chamberlin and couldn’t provide a cross in, while Jack Coy found space in the middle of the field and looked to open up Halifax’s defence again but his shot to Sides was over hit and fax cleared the danger. This early scare of pressure confirmed to Halifax that their opponents were not a side who could be pushed over easily, and the 3rds needed to slow the game down to focus on the job at hand.
Their first real chance of the game showed why the 3rds have had such a successful competition so far. After Vanbrugh being on top for most of the first half, Halifax only needed one attempt on goal to take the lead, Sean Kearney directing a header into the top corner from his sides first corner of the game. This didn’t seem to make the side take a hold of the game however, the defence all over the place, failing to clear the ball on several occasions, Vanbrugh couldn’t capitalise however, Sanderson heading over.
Halfiax began the second half knowing they needed two more goals to qualify for a place in the cup, a possible result but it would need a stronger performance than the previous half. Sample found himself in a dangerous position on the right side of the box, but decided to shoot when the better option looked to be playing it into the box, his shot rather weak and strayed wide. Halifax lacked a real urgency as the half went on, with Vanbrugh proving to be robust, refusing to let the 3rds in, this all changed however in the 50th minute. Johnny Stansfield, bursting down the by-line, picked out Sample who couldn’t get a shot away, but when the ball fell into the path of Forest outside the box, the midfielder smashed the ball into the top right hand corner; cue mayhem.
Halifax supporters on the JLD erupted as their side edged closer to qualification, the 3rds now had 10 minutes to score one more goal. The game opened up enormously, Halifax stretched as they desperately searched for a third goal. Stansfield had a chance to find it, shooting from the corner of the box, but Taylor was on hand to save for Vanbrugh. Halifax came again though, Percy finding himself in a great position to score in the box, but perhaps opted for the wrong move, passing on the Sample when a shot may have been the better option, as Vanbrugh once again cleared.
Attacking so urgently of course left the 3rds very vulnerable at the back. Jack Coy brought the ball forward for Vanbrugh and Blessed had to produce one of the saves of the tournament to keep the hope of qualification alive when a shot came in from outside the box, getting his fingertips to the ball to push it out for a corner. With seconds remaining, Halifax had one last hurrah as Stansfield crossed into the box, Sample lurking at the far post and looked to have headed the in to everyone on the touchline, but he guided his header centimeters wide.
The final whistle brought cheers from the Langwith players on the touchline, as the result meant they had scrapped through to the knockout stages on goals scored ahead of Halifax. The 3rds produced a valiant effort to cause an almighty upset but can still be very happy with their overall performance in the competition, with displays like this showing they will be a tough side to beat in the plate.Johnny Stansfield was proud of his team’s performance throughout, telling Vision ‘I thought we could have got that, we had a close chance with the header at the end, but we’ve been unbeaten all tournament and we have the second best defensive record ( in the competition)’.