|A journey through the fog to Thornton FC to watch the Gledhill Cup Quarter Final between Red Rose Catering FC and Wrea Green FC.|
Today we reached the Quarter Finals of this season's Gledhill Cup. All four games were worth watching but you can only be in one place at a time. On my last visit to this venue at the end of last season I watched on as Red Rose Catering FC beat Layton Institute FC in the Division 1 Cup Final. The Cup win also co-incided with promotion to the Premier Division for Red Rose after finishing runners up to Champions Layton Institute in Division 1.
As we move into February Red Rose are still well placed in sixth position. There's an interesting battle going on this season for a top four place and Red Rose are still in with a great chance of achieving that in their debut season in the top flight. In last season's Gledhill Cup Andy Manning's team were knocked out by eventual winners Quilligans. They were also the only team to find the net against Quilligans in all six rounds. To reach the Quarter Finals this season they've already had to knock out Highfield Social (Prem), the Royal (3B) and Golden Eagle (Prem).
Their opponents in the last eight this morning were 3A side Wrea Green. They're having a great campaign and along with 2A leaders Blackpool Rangers they are still to experience a league defeat all season. Currently, Dennis Halliday's team are lying second in the table four points behind leaders Autoweld but with five games in hand. This represents a marked improvement over recent times where they've failed to achieve any real period of consistency.
In order to reach this stage of the competion they've had to progress past Gillespies (2B), MA2 FC (3A), Philharmonic FC (1) and Arcadian FC (Prem). I can't remember the last time that a Division 3 side reached a Gledhill Cup semi final so victory today against Red Rose Catering would represent a major upset.
It's always good to get December and January out of the way especially when the first Sunday in February provided us with the best weather for Sunday football that we've seen since late October.
Red Rose Catering FC 2006/07
Wrea Green FC were out on the pitch too late for a team photograph and referee Holloway's patience was wearing thin as 11am passed by. However, Wrea Green were quickly out of the blocks and well on top for the first fifteen minutes. The Catering keeper was called upon to make some important stops. Firstly, he tipped a long range effort over the bar before making an excellent double save at the near post. Wrea Green were very unfortunate not to have taken the lead.
After twenty minutes the home side finally began to settle. Centre half Hartley's incesscant bawling was in direct competition with the fog horns of the Wyre Estuary but there was only ever going to be one winner. His side went very close when slack Wrea Green marking allowed a free header that beat Hassan but the ball bounced back off a post.
On the half hour mark referee Holloway harshly adjudged that a Catering striker had been tripped in the box. In the picture below you can see the disappointment of the Wrea Green defenders. After the commotion had eased up stepped the dependable Danny Gillett to fire it past Hassan. 1-0. You can see live video of the penalty by clicking here.
Wrea Green keeper Hassan.
The additional period added on my referee Holloway was under way when Red Rose defender foolishly conceded a free kick for clear shirt pulling in a non-dangerous area. The free kick was duly floated into the box from thirty five yards out. The Catering keeper made his only mistake of the match as he failed to gather it and from the subsequent scramble Richard Gardner hit it home high into the net. 1-1. The half time whistle followed almost immediately.
Half time score : Red Rose Catering FC 1 – 1 Wrea Green FC
Wrea Green FC start the second half.
As with the first half Wrea Green started much the stronger and for the first twenty minutes of the second period they were at their best. First to the loose ball, strongest in the tackle and with pace going forward they were stronger than their higher league opponents in all departments. Only some resolute defending and careful handling by the keeper kept them out.
Wrea Green manager Dennis Halliday encourages his side forward.
The Red Rose Catering FC keeper who had a good game today.
As with the first half Red Rose fought hard to get back into the game. On 80 minutes they were awarded a free kick in their own half. Once again this brought about much complaint from the Wrea Green players. Mike Hartley launched it into the box and the ball fell kindly for Craig Whitewood who found himself with acres of space and plenty of time to smash it past Hassan. 2-1.
Despite making every effort to try and get back into the game Wrea Green just couldn't make the breakthrough.
Final score : Red Rose Catering FC 2 – 1 Wrea Green FC
As expected this turned out to be a very entertaining Gledhill Cup Quarter Final. The Division 3A side were very impressive today and for long periods of the game looked much the better side. Based on this performance they'll no doubt win their Divisional title. It's little surprise that they're yet to be beaten in the league. The goalkeeper Hassan was outstanding today and never put a foot wrong throughout the entire ninety minutes. They're a big strong side with pace and strength in each Department and I expect them to go on to bigger and better things in coming seasons if they can keep this squad together.
Red Rose Catering FC can look back on a gutsy performance but they were given a stern test by lower league opposition this morning. Apart from his handling error for the goal the keeper was excellent overall and pulled off some excellent saves. Red Rose have some quality players and even though some of them are only young lads they already have bags of experience.
They certainly have the strength in depth to not only reach a Gledhill final but a top three place in the Premier Division is well within their capabilities when looking at their squad. Red Rose will face Bloomfield Vets in the semi final. I look forward to it.
Apologies once again for the poor quality photographs.