By: Dave Rhodes Ian Revitt's Photos Click Here
A cool breeze welcomed both teams onto the pitch at the Look Local Stadium in this FA Youth cup preliminary tie against Grimsby Borough.
With both sets of players keen to impress it was no surprise that the early exchanges were fast paced, a little hectic and nervy with both benches encouraging players to relax on the ball.
Certainly SPS settled the first and started to control play with Brandon Whitfield and Jacob Gibbon prominent, Whitfield playing in a deeper, number ten role, was busy trying to pull the strings. Both Luca De Falco and Whitfield went close with dead ball situations from just outside the box and SPS forced numerous corners that came to nothing really. Grimsby Borough came more into the game after 20 minutes or so and found themselves playing some nice possession football without really threatening Kian Sheedy the home goalkeeper.
Both teams were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply and unnecessarily as the game became a little scrappy. SPS knocked a number of balls over the top of the away side back four only to see the impressive away goalkeeper Oliver Bean tidying things up comfortably. But on the half hour mark Whitfield latched onto a ball in the box, turned his man and from a narrow angle fired a venomous shot across Bean who could only parry the ball into the path of De Falco who, from 8 yards out calmly slotted the ball home.
This goal gave the SPS boys confidence, but as they searched for a second they were always susceptible to the counter attack from a bright and energetic opponent. It was Callum Hawkesworths terrific challenge wide on the right that denied Borough a chance to attack into home territory and Cameron Ronksley was the epitome of calmness and control as he dealt with numerous last third advances from the visitors.
Half Time: SPS 1 - 0 Grimsby Borough
The second half saw Grimsby Borough coming out of the blocks well forcing two corners in quick succession, no doubt took on board instructions at half time to go out and influence the game, relax and pass the ball. They did just that and looked a better side already, but SPS were a resilient bunch as they thwarted most ventures into their defending third protecting Sheedy with sound defensive play.
The visitors were having a good spell and did control most of the play during the early part of the second half but SPS were dangerous on the break. The next goal was going to be a key factor in who was to be the winners of this tie.
SPS rallied well with the impressive Samuel Clarke in midfield leading by example with a terrific work ethic that permeated to his team mates.
SPS were glad to get the second goal to take a little pressure off and help them settle, and what a goal it was.
Cameron Ronksley connected with a bullet header 8 yards that flew into the top of the net from a Jacob Gibbon corner.
Whitfields persistence had gained the corner initially but it was Gibbons pin point delivery that gave Ronksley the chance to head home. Gibbon had led the line well all evening and deserved the assist.
Two nil to Steels as they settled, took the steam out of the game and saw it through.
Credit to Borough who never stopped trying to play and kept going to the end.
Full Time: SPS 2 - 0 Grimsby Borough