LSBU edged into the third round of the cup with an extra time winner courtesy of a goalkeeping howler in this controversial classic
You rarely get low scoring games that can grip you like this. You rarely have games that are subject to quite so much administrative muck ups. LSBU were meant to be playing this game at the comfort of their home ground of Burgess Park, but issues with booking the pitch saw South Bank making the four-hour round trip to Brunel thus turning this into an away game.
A squad of just 13 travelled. But nothing was going to going to deter the LSBU boys from marching into the next round of the cup. In their way stood Brunel 4ths A team a division above South Bank and sitting top of the league having scored 9 in their previous two games. LSBU meanwhile lost their opening game of the season, falling to a miserable 3-2 home defeat.
Games are precious at this level. You are not guaranteed your ten league fixtures in a season, so a good cup run is essential for anyone wanting that extra 90 or in this case, 120 minutes. From the get go however, South Bank played like a team determined to go all the way. That said, it took 20 minutes for the first chance of the came to come along. A lightening Mohammed Gani was released down the right wing by a Weadock pass, he powered towards goal, but his shot was safely wide. That shot however spurred South Bank into life and they had the best chance of the game only eight minutes later. Clive Sarireni at left back won the ball in a dangerous area where he teed it up for James Leyton. One touch to set and he fired it towards goal. It brought a terrific save from the Brunel keeper who bettered that by reacting sharply to push aside the rebound effort from Mohammed Yassinn.
Shortly after Weadock fired a rasping shot just over the bar, came the first big moment of the match. An horrific pass from the Brunel centre back was intercepting by Pol Basso Piñol. He exchanged a quick pass with Leyton, surged into the box only to be pulled down just as he was about to get his shot off. The referee correctly pointed to the spot but surprisingly showed no card to the offender. Considering a shot on goal was inevitable and no attempt was made to win the ball, the challenge could easily have seen the Brunel defender dismissed for a professional foul, but the referee believed that there was sufficient cover that warranted no card.
The penalty itself was a matter of textbook refereeing however. Leyton stepped up to take it, but his well struck penalty cannoned off the post. It quickly rebounded to him where he successfully buried it, but as no other player had touched the ball, the referee correctly ruled out the rebound effort.
Half time was rapidly approaching, and the upcoming break caught the South Bank players napping either side and were thankful to their keeper Joe Cook on both occasions to keep the score level. Corners have been a recent problem for LSBU and they were nearly undone again. The ball drifted to the front post where it was flicked on before a first-time volley limped through a crowd of players. On first look, it seemed a routine save but in reality, the close proximity of the ball to the keeper at first contact meant the quick reactions of Cook to beat the ball away was even more impressive.
Straight after half-time, Cook was worked again. A free-kick far out on the left was put into a dangerous area but no-one was able to get a touch on, however the ball itself was on target and needed a smart stop from Cook to push it wide. South Bank dominated the remainder of the half. Both teams had chances thwarted by the flag but neither team really looked like winning the match in normal time. So another 30 minutes was required for a winner to emerge.
Both teams displayed all the nerves and exhaustion you would associate with tight games in extra-time. This game proved that games at any level mean so much to football lovers. Both teams gave everything but still the score remained 0-0 as the first half of extra-time ended. The second half was a different matter altogether. The nerves remained but the game became mired in controversy.
A lobbed ball into the box fell kindly to the feet of the Brunel winger, who controlled well and slotted it home. He was however to be thwarted by the linesman’s flag. The referee blew up straight away but by then, Brunel were already celebrating and felt aggrieved. Their main protestations centred around the fact the lobbed ball into the box was then flicked on further by Harry Thompson. Although this was true, the original pass was intended for the same man and as a result the referee after conferring with the linesman ruled the goal offside and South Bank had received a major let off.
It’s fair to say the Brunel were sore about the decision. And perhaps whilst they were still licking their wounds, they let their guard down, or rather the Brunel keeper let his guard down. A huge kick downfield from Cook was chased and won by Leyton on the left-wing. He cut inside and was felled by the Brunel right-back. It’s fair to say that way out on the left wing and a long distance from goal doesn’t present a particularly good opportunity for a direct free-kick on goal. Quite whether Amin Martinez meant what he did when he curled the ball into the box is not yet known. The ball sailed lazily into the box, far away from a South Bank attacker, the Brunel keeper had the simple of task of catching the ball in front of his face. It looked like a routine catch right up until the moment that it slipped through his hands and into the net. The roar of delight from all eleven players on the pitch, both substitutes, the touchline coach Matt Clarke and the cheering supporters was deafening. It proved one thing at least. This game really mattered to South Bank players and they proves it with an outpouring of emotion.
On the other end, the emotions would have been very different and it’s impossible not to feel sorry for the Brunel keeper who otherwise had been the difference in the match so far with some exceptional goalkeeping. LSBU weren’t bothered, how, who, where or when. Just that they did score and scored when it mattered most, the game was only four minutes from a penalty shootout. All they had to do now was se it out, clear every ball, run down the clock, do everything and anything. Relief was visible across the players face every time a cross was caught by Cook, or a dangerous run ended by a tackle.
As with all tense finishes, the losing team has to have at least one opportunity, a corner brought the losing keeper up as 21 players crowded the box, the ball was sent to deep, but kept it by the right back, his cross was good towards the back post but as two Brunel players jumped at once, they could only succeed in heading innocently over the bar. The moment the ball was safe, the whistle blew, cries of “yes” filled the air as LSBU had come through everything to win one of the tensest games you could imagine.
To change venues and travel a long way to face a team a division above and flying high, scoring goals for fun could have had you thinking that this game was always going to be a bit of a mismatch. As it turns out, it really was, just for the other team. Other than a couple of smart saves from Cook either side of half-time, LSBU were the dominant side. They controlled play better, they won more challenges, got the ball into more dangerous positions. They nullified the pace of the Brunel front three and used the pace of their own front man Leyton to harass the opposition. Their midfield controlled the ball, winning tackles and starting attack in one go. And perhaps best of all, their defence was ready for pretty much anything thrown at them. They kept the aerial presence from the big front man to a minimum, they never allowed anyone to have space or time to shoot or pass.
But most of all, stripping the game down altogether, ultimately, South Bank just wanted this game more, they had that little bit more and it finally showed and they got what they deserved, a win and a spot in the next round of the cup!