|At Commonedge Road in the Spring sunshine casting an eye over the four Divsional Cup semi finals taking place in good conditions.|
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The crisp Commonedge air was thick with anticipation this morning as eight Division 2 & 3 teams looked to book their place in a Divisional Cup final. Cup fever combined with the good weather meant that the car park was filling up quickly soon after 10am and the mobile caterer was doing a roaring trade.
The opportunity to reach Sunday football Cup finals in the lower Divisions do not come along so often which makes them great viewing for the few neutrals as they're always fiercely fought passionate affairs with great rewards for the victors and huge disappointment for the vanquished.
The Division 2 sides were handed the best of the pitches over the ditch on seven and eight whilst the Division 3 sides were allocated pitches one and two. The two Division 2 semi finals had well backed favourites at the bookies with in-form Gardeners Arms (2A) hosting the Squirrel (2A) and high flying Fylde Coast Gates FC (2B) up aginst West Coast Tackle Postal FC (2A). This morning the Gardeners were third in the table two points behind the Squirrel with two games in hand. They've met just once in the league this season and that was last Sunday when the Gardeners triumphed 4-1 in the dress rehearsal. The Gardeners had enjoyed seven straight wins prior to today's game and they're the current holders of the Division 3 Cup.
In the other semi final the only remaining 2B side Fylde Coast Gates FC were taking on West Coast Tackle Postal FC. Gates were third in the table this morning four points behind the Shovels with a couple of games in hand. The unpleasantness with the Shovels aside Brian Carr's team have put together an impressive run of fourteen matches unbeaten in the league. Whatever happens in the end of season shake up the Gates have had probably their most successful season ever in the BFSFA and it would be great to see them in Division 1.
Opponents West Coast Tackle (2A) were featured in the last round. They're still enjoying a good season and still have an outside chance of third place. Two weeks back they had a blip when going down 5-1 at Great Eccleston, a side they'd beaten 7-1 a few weeks earlier but last week they returned to form with a 3-0 win over Elswick.
Two interesting looking matches in the Division 3 competition. The favourites were Wrea Green FC, the only remaining 3A side left in the competition but they wouldn't have it all their own way against Alliance new boys Secure Health FC from 3B. On Wednesday night Wrea Green's win over rivals Mythop guaranteed them at least runners up spot but it's only a matter of time before they'll clinch the title as theyre three points clear at the top with two games in hand. Eighten league games played and still unbeaten they'd prove to be stern opposition this morning.
Secure Health FC are currrently going very well in their first season. They were fourth in the table but with five games left it looks as though they may even finish a place higher in third if they can maintain recent form. Runners up spot is still an outside possibility if the Royal stumble but promotion to either Division 2 or Division 3A looks like a distinct possibility. Apart from a 4-1 beating by champions elect Cash & Carry Kitchens Paul Haslam's side are unbeaten in the last eleven games. Well capable of an upset this morning this was perhaps the most attractive tie on offer this morning.
Next door Cash & Carry Kitchens FC, the Division 3B leaders who were featured in this piece last week were taking on fellow 3B side Ward Heating FC who were featured earlier in the season. Ward Heating are also going well in fifth place and a storming finish may yet reward them with third place. The league games between these two sides have been very close. In mid October the Kitchens came out on top in a narrow 2-1 win whilst on bonfire night the teams played out an exciting 4-4 draw so everything to play for this morning.
Cup semi Sunday for the lower Divisions is one of the best days in the Alliance calendar and I'd been looking forward to it all week. Despite the chilly north easterly breeze we had good weather, decent surfaces and three officials for every match so few excuses.
Pictures from all four matches below ;
This morning's Cup referees and assistants prepare to go into battle.
Secure Health FC 2006/07
Wrea Green FC 2006/07
Final score : Wrea Green FC 5 – 1 Secure Health FC
Wrea Green started strongly in this game and were in control throughout. The favourites go through but a good effort from Secure who've done well to reach the semis in their first season together.
Next up on the adjoining pitch were Cash & Carry Kitchens FC and Ward Heating FC (White) who were playing in the other Division 3 Cup semi final.
'Kid of the week'. Young Ben Kettlewell happily out watching Dad Lee and the victorious Ward Heating FC.
Kitchens take the lead.
A cloud of dust and Ward Heating FC equalise.
Final score : Cash & Carry Kitchens FC 2 – 3 Ward Heating FC
Ward Heating FC pull off the result of the day as they end the Kitchen's 18 match unbeaten run. A great victory coming back to win after going behind early on. Two quick goals midway through the first half did the damage.
“We're through ! Ward Heating FC goalscorers
Over the dyke next to check in on the Squirrel (Blue) v Gardeners Arms FC tie. At half time the score was 1-1.
The Gardeners' keeper is a big lad and you know about it when he barges you off the ball.
Gardeners' Veteran Gary Stoney (Left) in his umpteenth final season.
Squirrel manager Martin Ramsden soon has the player back on his feet. “How many fingers am I holding up? – No, mine you idiot”
Squirrel management team member Andrew Wright has a good view of the action behind the goal
Linesman and BFSFA discipline secretary John McNicholas
Mick Smith (Left) and John Miles catch up.
Suspended Gardener's player manager Simon Morrell relatively content with his sides performance.
Final score : Squirrel FC 1 – 4 Gardeners Arms FC
The Squirrel took the lead early in this game and conceded a soft goal just before the break. It stayed relatively close in this one until midway through the half when the Gardeners stepped up a gear and in the end they ran out deserved winners.
On the next pitch the other Division 2 Cup semi final was being played between West Coast Tackle Postal FC and Fylde Coast Gates FC.
Fylde Coast Gates FC 2006/07
Chris Shields on his way to yet another final.
Gates' manager Brian Carr demands more from his players.
St Annes Ex Service v Northern Care
Scary individual – Most likely chemically enhanced.
Safely over the bar.
Wayne 'Jar Jar' Binks
Final score : West Coast Tackle Postal FC 1 – 3 Fylde Coast Gates FC
Another fairly close game until Gates killed off the oppositon with a goal midway through the second half. As the breeze strengthened West Coast were struggling to create chances whilst Gates looked dangerous on the break. That sets up a great looking final between Gates and Gardeners which is just too close to call.
In the end the four best teams on the day progressed through to the finals which is all you can hope for. All four matches were played in excellent spirit and had few if any controversial incidents. All the games I saw were very well officiated by the men in black. Good luck to all four teams in the final and commiserations to the beaten sides. A good day to be playing in white.