Keens Park Rangers First Team were desperately unlucky to be knocked out of the County Cup on Saturday after an 8-7 defeat on penalties to local rivals Guildford United.
The Golds started the game on the front foot and dominated the early stages, with Michael Woods finding a lot of space down the right hand side with the likes of Liam Harrison, Ryan Wallis and Ben Wicherek there for support.
The early intensity wasn’t rewarded however, as Guildford United scored a freak goal in their first meaningful attack of the game. A hopeful, lofted cross evaded the entire defence and goalkeeper and found its way into the far corner.
Keens Park were not deterred by going a goal down and continued to attack with purpose. Shortly after, Bruce McPhail found himself in a lot of space and unleashed a pile-driver towards goal which the goalkeeper could not gather and Liam Harrison was instinctively on hand to tap in the rebound.
The away side’s equaliser seemed to wake Guildford United up and they began an onslaught of long throws and booming goal-kicks. United’s no. 9, who scored many a goal against Keens Park Rangers in his Old Salesians days, started to find a lot more joy and eventually gave his new side the lead when he was left unmarked to head home from 12-yards out.
Again, going a goal behind did not play on the minds of the Keens Park players and they were a consistent threat. Owen Stutchbury had a header from a corner cleared off the line and Ryan Wallis rattled the ball off the bar from 25 yards as The Golds pressed for an equaliser. Dave Harris and Gary Mitchell didn’t have to wait long, however, as a goalkeeping howler levelled the proceedings once more. Although it was an individual error, the impact of the away side’s high press cannot be ignored.
Guildford United were a threat going forward themselves and their direct approach in a swirling wind was causing the Keens Park defence all sorts of problems and it was another long ball that led to their third of the afternoon. Danny Way was left exposed at the back-post and the no. 9 bagged his second after winning the mis-match and sliding the ball home.
The Golds were behind 3-2 at the break but everyone in the dressing room knew they were by no means out of the game.
Despite a passionate and positive half-time team talk, the away side were two goals behind shortly after the restart. The United forward expertly sealed his hat-trick with a confident finish after sending Owen Stutchbury for a hot-dog.
Keens Park have made a habit of fighting back from losing positions this season and because of this, they knew the game was still not over. Vic Hamilton, who came on for the injured Liam Harrison, was a constant nuisance for the home side and struck the post with an effort that left the goalkeeper rooted. Hamilton and Woods’ tireless running and pace started to leave space on the pitch for Wallis and Wicherek to get on the ball and create chances. Wallis and Woods combined to feed Wicherek, but his fizzing effort was sensationally saved.
Ironically, despite the contrasts in style, it was a direct ball that led to The Golds’ third. James Crouch head-shouldered-kneed-and-toed the ball across goal from a free-kick for Ryan Wallis to sweep the ball in.
Dave Harris and Gary Mitchell changed to a 3-5-2 to throw the kitchen sink at the hosts. The Tuesday night shuttles in the rain had clearly paid off as Keens Park still looked as spritely as ever while Guildford United started to wane.
With no more than five minutes left on the clock, Keens Park had their deserved equaliser. Wallis drove into the box on the right and drilled a ball across the face of goal for Ben Wicherek to prod home.
The score was 4-4 at the final whistle and the game went to penalties.
Similar to the 90 minutes that came before it, the two sides were evenly matched in the penalty shootout and incredibly, 15 penalties were scored before Keens Park eventually fell in sudden death. Despite only four people electing themselves to step up, Stutchbury, Wallis, Wicherek, Leonard, Noble, Woods and McPhail all scored.
A quick glance at the tables would have suggested a walk in the park for the home side, but the reality is, the gulf in quality between the two sides and particularly the two divisions is not as great as people believe.
Games between Guildford United and Keens Park Rangers are always a proper game of football and an entertaining encounter. This was certainly no exception.
Keens Parks Rangers is a Guildford based football club and we are always looking for new players and sponsorship opportunities. Get in touch with us through our website or our social channels