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A run that started in October with a narrow one goal victory against Goldsmith’s ended here with a narrow one goal defeat to the University of West London. As high as the anticipation was prior to the game. LSBU will look back undoubtedly on this match as a big opportunity missed. Before South Bank were able to muster a sustained period of pressure they found themselves three goals down which ultimately proved fatal to their chances of reaching the final.
The first half was doubly frustrating, not only did they fall one-nil down, but they were unable to even test out the West London goalkeeper who turned out to be an outfield player standing in for the regular keeper who was late and came on at half-time.
Although they had they early possession and were fluttering around the West London box, chances on goal were limited to pop shots and the rare occasions they were able to get past a nervous West London defence, they couldn’t quite get a shot of any note off. In fact, they were grateful to their keeper, Joe Cook who pulled off a stunning one-handed reaction save from a cut back ball to keep the scores level.
Unfortunately for South Bank, the score line didn’t stay level for much longer, even more irritating for LSBU, the free kick that led to the opening goal was to put it mildly, contentious. An innocuous challenge in the West London half by Harry Carey gave West London a chance to lump the ball in the South Bank penalty area and as the ball was crossed in low, a resourceful West London striker improvised to backheel his team into the lead.
South Bank did respond strongly. With just a few minutes remaining in the half, they had a flurry of chances, again however, none ever really threatened. First James Leyton saw his shot from a tight angle easily gathered up by the keeper, then straight after, Leyton played in Carey who’s attempted drive into the corner went wide. Perhaps the best chance of the three came with almost the last kick of the half and was almost supplied courtesy of a goalkeeping howler. Amin Martinez attempted to hook the ball over the defence to find Callum Bedward but his pass was too long and left the stand-in keeper with a simple collection although he somehow fumbled this easiest of catches straight back to Martinez who was forced to quickly react but his shot only found the keeper who just had to stand there to save it.
If South Bank had finished the first half strong, their start of the second half was all but suicidal. The first attack of the half saw West London earn a corner which was simply floated into the box and nodded home by an unmarked West London player. Set pieces have beena problem for LSBU this season but to leave a player unmarked from eight yards is asking for trouble. Two-nil was comfortable but not out of sight for LSBU but rather than push back, they found their day done just a few minutes later. Another corner, this was initially defended, but when the ball was knocked back into the box, the cross was deflected skywards by Harry Thompson’s head but it only ended up falling to the back post, yet again unmarked, the shot was initially met by a blinding save from Cook who deserved better than seeing the ball rebound painfully to the West London striker who simply slammed the ball home and the game seemed over.
South Bank, down but not yet out, finally began to rally and almost got a foot back in the door. Carey, using one his driving runs that had already seen him bag 11 goals in the season, wormed his way into the box and unleashing his shot, only to see it ping off the crossbar. Just 4 minutes later though, the chance South Bank had been waiting for came. Really it could not have been more simple, a long throw from Bas LTgani saw both Ryan Burcham and Carey jump for the ball. The goal still dubious first slipped of Burcham’s head before flicking a defender’s head and finally appearing to be directed goalwards by the head of Carey. However, whoever, ultimately it didn’t matter. The score was 3-1 with more than 20 minutes left to play.
Kaylem Weadock came close with a free-kick that went just over before South Bank were given real hope of an extraordinary comeback, this time in the form of a penalty. LTgani again provided the pass which was chested down by Leyton. Tricking his way past the West London full back he was brought down in the box for a simple penalty. The pressure could be felt and seen on the faces of South Bank players and supporters on the sideline. Whether or not Leyton himself felt any himself was irrelevant as the penalty was blasted home and just like that LSBU were right back in the game.
There were only 5 minutes of the game left. The game suddenly became attack vs defence. However, the closest South Bank came was a hopeful ball in the West London penalty area which was just pushed clear by the keeper before a LSBU player could get on the end of it. West London battened down the hatches and were just about able to counter the South Bank pressure. Maybe if LSBU had been given a few more minutes they could have sent the game to extra time but it wasn’t to be and the tie and cup run had ended at the semi-finals.
It was undoubtedly a massive disappointment for LSBU. The game was genuinely winnable finding themselves up against a similarly ranked team in a different league. Although they were aided by the threat of Carey, the pace and trickery of Leyton and the towering presence of Burcham in midfield, an injury just a few days earlier to their influential player/manager Connor Burrows meant the South Bank centre-back had to watch from the touchline as did captain Matt Clarke suffering from a long-term knee injury sustained two rounds prior.
But ultimately the disappointment will come from the goals conceded and the simplicity and ease of which they were scored. At one or even two-nil down, it was genuinely believable that South Bank could get back into the game and, although they did by then, they were three-nil down and any comeback was just, agonizingly out of reach.