The harsh reality of errors at the back and not taking chances up top was evident in abundance last night as the SPS U18 squad crashed out of the FA Youth cup at the first hurdle away at Staveley MWFC.
What a cruel game this can be as chance after chance was created but not taken and the shambolic end to the game gave us a four nil score line that we really didn’t deserve.
The game started with SPS keeping the ball well, after 3 minutes a glorious long diagonal ball from Tom Staniland, put the home sides defenders under pressure when Jack Merrick had chased them down forcing a corner. Staniland knocked in the corner and Tom Kerry missed a half chance at the front post with his head from 6 yards. 2 minutes later Merrick was put through one on one but missed the target.
Terrific early pressure by the SPS boys gave the home side plenty to think about and it was Adam Morley next to test the resolve of the home defenders as he latched onto a great through ball from Max Glaves but couldn’t convert the opportunity.
Joe Hawksworth was caught offside when it looked debatable as he pushed and probed forward from midfield.
Morley again was a thorn in the side for the home defenders as he chased and chased lost causes, another corner was put in by Staniland but was too high and too deep going out for a goal kick. Then a free kick from 25yards was tamely hit at the home goalkeeper from the same player.
A great start by us with Bruce and Kerry pulling the strings from midfield, just needed that goal to settle things down.
Staveley started to get forward more now and did give us a few scares but Sam Vernon, Dan Haynes and Luke Allen dealt with the threats admirably with great composure. Staveley showed signs that they could threaten on the break and that we should be aware of losing shape as we went forward in numbers.
A Kerry volley from a tight angle did not worry the goalkeeper and on 40 minutes Morley,s terrific run and driven pull back down the right only deflected into the arms of the home goalkeeper after a scramble at the near post.
It was the home sides pacey number 7 on 43 minutes, a handful for Staniland all evening, who broke the deadlock. Stanilands late slide tackle after the winger went by him giving away a penalty. Jake Groombridge the SPS goalkeeper was sent the wrong way by the same player as he drove the ball low to his left giving him no chance.
Just before Half time another Staniland corner was sent in deep to the far post but did not trouble the home defence as they cleared comfortably.
Half Time : Staveley MWFC 1 – 0 SPS
The second half started with SPS on the front foot, Morley shooting over from 12 yards after a great through ball from Bruce. Hawksworth lost possession in front of his own back four and this caused a little panic in the SPS defence but led to nothing. It was nip and tuck as both teams were looking dangerous going forward, Groombridge saved well in a one on one situation where the attacker looked favourite.
It was SPS who dominated proceedings, pressed and pressed for the equaliser.
Kerry was fouled wide on the left, Staniland knocked in a whipped cross to the far stick and there was Max Hemmingway who looked as though he was going to force the ball home only to see his effort loop over the bar off his knee from 2yards out. Bruce missed a great chance from 12 yards scuffing his shot, Morley continued the great work and sent in a driven ball across the 6 yard box with Merrick and Kerry just failing to convert an easy tap in. A Luke Allen flicked header was tipped over by the home goalkeeper, Morley one v one was sent just wide of the post.
Both Harris and Newhall, second half substitutes, were booked for fouls as the frustration mounted.
It was clearly not going to be our day. The game was becoming stretched and our boys were in danger of losing shape and discipline, giving everything, but just couldn’t convert the numerous chances that were being created. Staveley lads held firm, kept their organisation well and credit to them for that.
On 82 minutes a bizarre goal was conceded by SPS after a lack of understanding and communication between Groombridge and Newhall deep in SPS territory. The Referee waved played on when the free kick hadn’t been taken but was passed to Groombridge to take.
An unfortunate goal to concede at such a critical point in the game, as play had stopped, the Staveley player simply walked the ball in the net.
At 2 – 0 we continued to push forward and were still in the game but the SPS boys had lost concentration at this point, made wrong decisions at the back and paid the price conceding two more soft goals.
All in all a great learning curve for our boys at their first venture into the FA Youth cup. They can hold there heads high as on another day it could have been a well deserved victory, that’s how football goes sometimes. The result hurts, yes, but most importantly the boys continue to develop and fulfil the potential they clearly have.
The squad get another crack at it next year and will certainly be better equipped after the experience.
We would like to thank Staveley MWFC for their hospitality and wish them all the best and good luck in the next round.