The game was played on the 1st team pitch, the larger surface probably helpful for 2 teams who like to get the ball down and stretch play. Norsemen had a couple of notable absentees, but were still able to loan out a few regular players to the 6th team to help out and give them some match practice, in a game which ended 0-0.
Both teams started the game fairly nervously, all too aware that a quarter final place was at stake. Chances were few and far between, and the ball spent a lot of time being passed around, lost and won back in the midfield. The conditions didn't help, with the driving rain becoming heavier and heavier as the half went on. Ally Pally tried to use the wings to cause problems and won a few free-kicks in our half, but the resulting balls didn't cause too many problems. We improved as the half went on, without playing to our best. A couple of corners were forced at either end, but there were no real chances to note and the half-time whistle was a welcome relief as both teams headed back into the changing rooms. The bald brave battler Halpin was removed feeling very under the weather, replaced by Beveridge at LB.
HT 0 - 0
The HT team talk was fairly positive, but it was clear there was room for improvement, and also a need to keep our concentration as it was obvious one goal may well be enough. A few of the more composed members of the team (Keye, Clark, Bevvers) were heard confidently discussing the possibility of a penalty shoot-out settling the game. But that was still a long way off, and the second half started off with more pace and bite than the first half and things started to liven up a bit. The rain had stopped and both teams started pressing and trying to create chances. The referee began to frustrate some Norsemen players due to some fairly baffling decisions, but thankfully these were trivial things (throw-ins, free-kicks in midfield) and they didn't affect the game significantly. By 75 minutes, Norsemen should probably have been ahead. Some neat attacking football saw Porky ghost into the box, and his deflected shot fell to Green whose goalward effort was expertly headed over by their centre-half for a corner. From the resulting corner, Keye powered a header off the crossbar with the keeper stranded. A mere couple of inches costing Keye badly, not for the first time.
We all feared these would be the chances we would regret, but Ally Pally could not break through and punish us and when the freshly-introduced White curled in an absolute peach off the post from the right touchline about 30 yards out with 5 minutes remaining, it was no more than Norsemen's efforts deserved. An early goal of the season contender, such a beautiful goal at such an important time of the match.
The last 5 minutes and injury time were comfortably seen out and Norsemen progressed to the quarter finals.
An excellent victory which every player earned through hard work and persarverance in what were horrific conditions in parts. Also finally the first clean sheet of the season, which we need to build on.
Back to league duty this weekend with a trip to Salesians, where Norsemen will hope to match last season's gritty performance down there, and keep our great early start going.
It must be added that as it was Halloween weekend, strange mystical and weird happenings were always to be expected. But no-one could quite believe their eyes when Danny and Nigel bought a jug. I still think it was just a post-match hallucination. As far as I'm aware, no-one managed to capture this freak (apparent) event on camera and so it's mystery will continue to intrigue us for years. Also another strange occurrence was the fact Keye managed to get through 90 minutes of football without forgetting he can’t actually play football. Sticking to Greens clear orders of head, and attempt to kick.