16th Jan, 2017

Droitwich defeated on penalties after coming back from 2-0 down in tense cup clash

Droitwich Editorial 7th Jan, 2017 Updated: 7th Jan, 2017

DROITWICH Spa relinquished their hold of the Midland League’s Presidents Cup after suffering a 4-2 penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of local rivals Barnt Green Spartak.

The Saltmen found themselves 2-0 down at half-time as goals from Johaine Thompson and Aaron Westwood put GJ Singh’s men in firm control.

However, the holders of the Presidents Cup soon battled back as an eight-minute double from Nick Seabourne levelled the scores after 66 minutes.

But Seabourne’s hard work was undone just 11 minutes later as Thompson grabbed his second of the game to nose Spartak ahead once more.

The drama was not over though as Spa were awarded a controversial penalty with just four minutes remaining but Max Crisp saw his poor spot-kick tipped round the post by Raghban Ali.

Crisp though, went from zero to hero with virtually the last kick of the game as with seconds to spare he headed home Aston Gunter’s corner at the back post to send the tie to extra-time.

With both sides making sure they did not lose the tie at such a late stage, the score remained 3-3 after 30 more minutes of football.

Spartak started the penalty shoot-out as the fog began to descend on the King George Playing Fields and it was Kevon Henry who coolly slotted home from 12 yards to give the visitors the lead.

Crisp, for the second time of the afternoon, stepped up to take Spa’s first penalty and duly obliged with a piledriver to make it 1-1.

Birthday boy Matt Oliver then saved Nathan Stoute’s penalty but Spa could not capitalise on that miss as Seabourne saw his shot easily saved.

Reuel Prescod then put Spartak 2-1 up with a calm finish before Andrew Crowther fired wide of the mark to give the visitors the upper hand.

Reiss O’Connor made it 3-1 to Spartak which was quickly reduced to 3-2 when Adam Granger smashed his penalty straight down the middle.

Then up stepped Thompson to take the potential winning penalty and with immense pressure on his shoulders, he showed great composure to find the bottom right-hand corner to send Spartak through to the next round.

Spa, who recorded a remarkable 1-0 victory over Alvis Sporting Club at the end of last season to pick up their first Presidents Cup in their history, started the brighter of the two sides as they dominated the possession and looked very dangerous going forward.

And it was Macauley Finch who got the first shot on goal after three minutes when he collected Haydn Morris’ cross from the right but he saw his well-driven shot shave the top of the crossbar.

Just moments later Finch was forced off due to injury and his replacement Bradley Burgess made an immediate impact when Jamie Smith’s corner was cleared to the substitute who could only slice wide of the mark.

Spartak failed to cope with the early Saltmen onslaught and the hosts will be wondering how they did not go ahead in the 15th minute when Morris raced through on goal, rounded Ali before crossing to Seabourne who had an open goal to aim at but could only direct his header onto the crossbar.

The visitors though eventually found their feet as Thompson ran through on goal before rounding Oliver but with the goal at his mercy, Spartak’s Number Ten was denied as Oliver made a last-ditch tackle before the danger was eventually cleared.

And two minutes later, against the run of play, GJ Singh’s men took the lead through a free-flowing move which saw Westwood break free down the left before whipping in a delightful cross into the centre of goal where Thompson prodded home.

Frustrations for Spa continued after 38 minutes when Spartak doubled their lead as Westwood’s long-range free-kick nestled into the far corner following a slight deflection on its way through the high number of bodies in the penalty area.

Now in full control of the game, the visitors almost made it 3-0 just four minutes before half-time but the woodwork came to the rescue of Spa as another Westwood effort skimmed off the post.

After the break, it took just 13 minutes for the Saltmen to pull themselves back into the tie as a wonderful passing move saw Gunter feed Burgess whose inch-perfect cross was met by Seabourne who poked the ball home.

Two minutes later though, Prescod nearly restored Spartak’s two-goal advantage as he sliced his way through Spa’s defence before firing agonisingly wide.

And that missed proved costly for the visitors six minutes later as a crossfield pass from Smith landed at the feet of Seabourne who showed his clinicalness in front of goal to make it 2-2.

Despite losing their two-goal lead, Spartak went on to regain the lead after 77 minutes when substitute Kevon Henry showed some nice skill and pace to beat his man on the left wing before crossing to the near post where Thompson was duly placed to smash home.

But the drama was not over as nine minutes later Spa had the chance to level once again as a rather conspicuous penalty was awarded to the hosts.

However, Crisp could not apply the finish as his tamely hit shot from 12 yards was easily tipped round the post by Ali in the Spartak goal.

And just when you thought things could not get any more dramatic, with just a matter of moments remaining Crisp made amends for his penalty miss as he nodded home at the back post to send the tie to extra-time.

Following a short break, neither side showed a desire to win the game in extra-time but Prescod came closest to giving Spartak the lead for the third time of the afternoon as his looping header bounced off the crossbar.

The second half of extra-time yielded even less action but Spa keeper Oliver will be breathing a huge sigh of relief as his miskick in his own area landed at the feet of Prescod who could only lob wide with the goal at his mercy.

After the end of extra-time, Spartak showed their penalty shoot-out credentials to claim a thrilling 4-2 win to book their place in the semi-finals.