Last Gasp Winner Puts Saint’s In the Final
What can you say about last night’s game that isn’t riddled with clichés? This game was a definitive advert for the thrills and excitement that is the Callywith Flexi League.
Let us be clear from the very start, St. Neot were the complete underdogs. Polperro in the league stages had played 6 won 6 and had a goal difference of +17, so this was without question the most difficult game for the Saints to date. The difficulty was made much worse by the fact two of their players were playing on the back of recovering from Covid, two more were nursing injuries, one was on holiday and one had parked his car upside down earlier in the day.
The game didn’t start well for the Saints. Within a minute Polperro had taken the lead with a pacey attack on the right. The Saints defenders became over stretched and left a large gap which was fully exploited by the winger for Polperro to go one up.
On the 8th minute, an almost mirror image of the first goal saw Polperro get their second but this time on the left. Suffice to say the Saints team didn’t let their heads drop and the pace of the game was relentless from both sides. The attacking duo of Berry and Bartlett saw them time and again prize open the Polperro defence only to find themselves flagged offside.
Opportunities came and went for both sides, Saints spurned a number of chances from various angles, but the intent showed by them was clear, 2 goals down had been the rocket needed for the squad to give Polperro a game.
On the stroke of half time St Neot got their reward. Nathan Berry, staying onside, ran at the Polperro defence, he managed to evade 2 defenders and from a good way out shot low and to the right of the keeper.
The second half was without doubt was one of the emotionally draining halves of football. Despite the first half finishing 2-1 to Polperro, the frantic nature of the game saw the score line increase for both side within four minutes of the restart
Polperro took early steps to re-establish their 2 goal advantage. A foul given away carelessly at the edge of the Saints box saw a resultant free kick that was outstanding in its execution. O’Regan in the Saints goal could do nothing to stop it. The St Neot bench reverentially applauded the quality of the free kick, shrugged their shoulders and tried to encourage their team.
3 minutes later the referee awarded a penalty to St. Neot. It was hard to determine who was fouled in the box due to the large number of people in there and the resulting scramble. It was either Matt Nottle or Nathan Berry that was fouled, but irrespective of that, Jack Bartlett stepped up and converted the penalty, to make it 3-2.
10 minutes passed with the usual ebb and flow of the game, perhaps St. Neot edging it by controlling the pace of the game. Alex Martin charged down the right wing to cut inside and receive a through ball. Martin promptly converted it but by that time the linesman had already flagged him off side. The linesman then promptly put his flag down instead of keeping it raised. The referee, obviously didn’t see the flag and awarded the goal, much to Polperro’s annoyance. By this time the St. Neot team had reset and were awaiting the restart. Great debate was had between the referee and the linesman and then finally goal was chalked offside.
The St. Neot player’s demeanour changed; they played like a team that knew it could get something form this game. With 10 minutes to go, a Saints attack saw a stinger of a shot whip in the Polperro Goalkeeper hands, he fumbled the ball, Nathan Berry was first to pounce and convert making it 3-3.
From then on, it was all Polperro. Their relentless attacking pace trying to open up the St. Neot defenders but to a man the Saints team worked as one solid defensive unit.
As time ticked by manager Adam Bainbridge’s thoughts turned to penalties. As the clocked passed full time and injury time was almost at an end, the St. Neot defence launched a long ball up the field to clear the danger, Jack Bartlett latched onto the ball. With a minute to go, the Polperro keeper rushed off his goal line to take the ball off Bartlett’s feet. Bartlett read the move and chipped the ball over the keeper. From pitch side the ball looked destined to go over the cross bar, but it dropped deliciously below the cross bar and in. Whilst the attendance was only just in double figures, the place erupted in noisy celebration.
And that as they say is that… a game that had everything, players that gave everything a nerve-wracking explosive game that saw the underdogs triumph and reach the final of the Flexi League.
Saints manager Adam Bainbridge said of the game: “What a rollercoaster, a deserved win due to the team’s inability to know when they were beaten”
In the final St Neot play an enormously strong side in the form of Polzeath Monday who are current holders of the cup. The Waves victory over Camelford on Monday night in the first semifinal showed what a well drilled, hardworking and talented team they have. St. Neot will have an enormously difficult task in prizing the cup from the hands of the Polzeath team, but if they play like they did this evening, then anything is possible.
St. Neot Team
O’Regan, German, Bryant, King, Davey, Kemp, Tapper, Crowle, Corson, Bartlett, Berry
Banyard (Not Used), Nottle, Graham (Not Used), Martin
Donkey of the Week:
Adam Bainbridge… on holiday for the final