The First Team score two goals in added time to beat yet another higher division opponent in the Premier Challenge Cup.
The Premier Challenge Cup group games are coming thick and fast and the First Team knew they needed nothing less than a win vs. Cranleigh if they were to progress after last week’s frustrating defeat.
Keens Park, playing at home for the second week in a row, looked in control for the first 25 minutes without anything to show for it, except a few crosses flashed across the face of goal, with Cranleigh creating even less.
But in typical First Team fashion this season, the Golds found themselves a goal down due to a lack of concentration followed by a brilliant goal. A string of aerial battles were lost and the ball eventually fell to Cranleigh’s most threatening player before the number 9 cut inside and smashed the ball home from just outside the box.
This was a kick up the backside for the home team, who had perhaps been too comfortable with their just above average performance so far, and they were soon level in bizarre circumstances. After a direct pass forward, the ball was freakishly sliced by the defender towards his own goal, forcing the keeper to use his hands to stop it and consequently gave away an indirect free-kick from just six yards out. Liam Harrison stepped up and calmly powered Dan Way’s touch into the roof of the net.
However, similar to last week, Keens Park let their guard down just after getting level and a lack of communication at the back led to the number 9 confidently finishing from a tight angle.
Dave Harris and Gary Mitchell weren’t displeased with the first-half performance, but they knew the team had more in them. The second half nearly got off to the perfect start as Liam Harrison found himself in acres of space inside the area, but he didn’t quite realise that and somewhat rushed his shot!
Playing down the hill, it was Keens Park who were on the front foot for nearly the entirety of the second half, but such were the conditions of the pitch and the weather, they were unable to properly get the ball down to create many openings.
The managers changed the formation to 4-3-3 as they looked to throw everything at Cranleigh for the final 15 minutes. With just minutes to go, it seemed like Keens Park weren’t to be rewarded for their second half efforts as the ever-dangerous number 9 sent half the defence for a hot-dog, but he was denied brilliantly by James Mullin. The save proved more valuable than anyone could have imagined.
With the game into the first minute of added time, a long Bruce McPhail throw-in eventually found Ryan Wallis, whose shot was handled by the Cranleigh full-back to win a penalty. Owen Stutchbury dealt with the growing pressure superbly and even blocked out the linesman’s best efforts to put him off by burying his penalty expertly.
A point was rescued, but despite having played 91 minutes, the team still believed they could get more. Doug Noble, on his First Team debut, picked up the ball in the middle of the park before turning and finding Seamus Leonard, who kept his composure to inch-perfectly find the bottom corner to complete the most dramatic comeback the team has seen in years.
Although the overall quality of the game wasn’t at its peak, Keens Park’s character and desire made sure the three points came in the end. A crucial home game against Windlesham awaits to see if they are able to progress out of the Premier Challenge Cup Group Stages.
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