Wisden Junior Cup second Round
Hawkhurst Utd II 0
South Coast Athletico 5
Cup days are always special and with a quarter final place in the ESFL Wisden Sports Cup up for grabs the lads of South Coast Athletico were buzzing to get on the pitch away to Hawkhurst 2nds.
These teams had already met twice in the league yielding a draw and a convincing 5-nil return fixture victory for the Chopbacks, so come what may this match was going to produce entertaining football.
The game kicked off and South Coast asserted early dominance creating a few early chances which unsettled the hosts.
Hawkhursts game plan was to be physically aggressive, push the boundaries of the referee and attempt to unsettle the Chopbacks – but that tactic didn’t work! South Coast were focused on playing football and football only.
Thirteen minutes in and Connor Easton executed a trade mark long range throw into the box which wasn’t cleared, falling to Mike Hawley who thundered home to put the Chopbackas on the score sheet.
The home team’s frustrations began to show as several Hawkhurst players put in late and aggressive tackles resulting in a few heated exchanges but South Coast players were still not intimidated and began to switch up another gear.
The Chopbacks had the ball in Hawkhurst’s net midway through the first half, but it was ruled off side by the linesman.
Undeterred, South Coast pushed on and reaped their reward in the 27th minute after Hawkhurst conceded a free kick 20 yards out.
South Coast’s goal machine Easton stepped up and struck an up and over curling ball, Hawkhurst’s keeper got to it but couldn’t prevent it from hitting the back of the net.
The remainder of the half mainly consisted of midfield battling and few chances of note materialised for either team.
The hosts came out battling hard at the start of the second half, throwing in foul after foul which seemed to frustrate them more than their opposition. The Chopbacks refused to be drawn in and their talent began to flow.
The 62 minute mark saw the beginning of the end for the hosts as Coast’s heroic midfield maestro Brad Owens provided a contender for goal of the season, using strength, agility and resilience. He rode and avoided three attempts to bring him down, broke free and looped a ball over the top of the Hawkhurst high line back four.
The ball’s intended recipient Hawley was caught offside but well aware and knowing he was off side halted to avoid the linesman flag.
Hawkhurst’s defence and goalkeeper froze, assuming it was offside but the sharp footballing brain of Brad Owens saw him carry on, he sprinted to catch up with his own pass and slotted it decisively past the stunned Hawkhurst keeper to make it 3-0 and earn himself an assist in the process.
The football the Chopbacks were playing by this point was a class above their opponents, more akin with that of much higher league teams.
Four minutes later and in a pressing attack by the visitors, Luke Darvill assisted Easton slotted home taking the game out of site of the hosts.
There was more controversy moments later as South Coast had the ball once again across Hawkhurst’s goal line, the keeper flicked it out but the referee ruled it out as he couldn’t validate it from his position.
Seconds later Owens played a decisive through ball to Easton who hit home to secure his hattrick, which was also a land mark 50th goal for him at South Coast Athletico in just two seasons.
Darvill had several chances of his own leading up to the final whistle, but some notable saves by Hawkhurst’s keeper, left him a little frustrated in what is for him a rare match – one in which he did not score.
The whistle blew, marking a full time 5-0 win booking Athletico a place in next weekend’s quarter finals against J.C. Tackleway.
Although every man played very well, man of the match was earned by a stand out gritty, grimy performance by Ryan Penny.
Special note to South Coast Athletico central defensive midfielder (forward) Lee Finnigan for his outstanding vocal encouragement to his team mates, or at least that’s what is assumed as no one has yet proved able to translate the Geordie battle cry!