The big day had arrived and what a pig of a day, where non-stop rain throughout the morning had made the pitch very wet and heavy in places, with small amounts of surface water covering the pitch at Corinthian Casuals FC. The crowd was a very creditable 100+ and was bolstered by a good contingent from our visitors. Manager David Cross was pensive but was glad he had a full 16 man squad to select from and on paper, perhaps his strongest XI, apart from keeper Warne of Dorking carrying a leg injury so Chris Parlett of Sutts proved an able deputy.
The crowd was boosted by the attendance of ex League Referee Ray Lewis , Mike Brown CEO AFA , David Dunn the AFA Chairman plus other AFA Officials and an excellent turn out of AFC VP’s & Executive Officers, all looking forward, some more anxious than others, to what was yet again to turn out to be an absolute belter of a match. I have to once again thanks and admire Geoff Lence for making the trip from his home in Chelmsford by replacement buses, train tube and foot to the game and back again – at 88 a marvel indeed.
Would this affect the AFC, not likely as the ever impressive Chris Heritage of Hampton and Ryan Bright of Meads began to boss the midfield and three great chances fell to Holt & Heritage but neither were able to apply that finishing touch. The pressure had to tell and so it did when after 30 minutes, a magnificent twenty yard pile-driver from Ellis McLennon of Sutts flew past the TVPL keeper before he could move 2-1.
This spurred TVPL into almost non-stop pressure and keeper Parlett came to the rescue on a number of occasions pushing one against the post and clear, before with a flying save. thwarting another effort for a corner. It was one-way traffic and Parlett again managed to tip another long range effort round the post. The AFC then give away a needless foul 30 yards out and up steps TVPL’s No 11, Donegan who fires the free kick over Parlett, the effort crashing off then cross bar, where the lurking McKie gratefully bundled the ball over the line. 2-2. Only three minutes to the half time whistle and were both teams going to settle for the draw, not the AFC, following yet another free kick, about 30 yards out the towering Holt smashes his header home 3-2.
HALF – TIME.
Manager Cross must have again worked his magic at half time as the team emerged in rampaging form and left back Charlie Cain of Meads fizzes a great shot past the keeper only for a defender to somehow clear it off the goal line, the AFC crowd are very vocal indeed!! The game settles into an end to end battle and the AFC unfortunately keep running offside, tiredness is now affecting both teams and changes are afoot. TVPL make a couple of key changes which seems to install new life into the tired limbs of their team mates. After 67 minutes a sudden break sees Heritage embark on yet another mazy dribble and a superb cross sees McLennon’s goal bound drive somehow tipped over by the TVPL keeper.
Time is creeping past, sub Walsh of Clapham replaces club mate Wakeford in defence, can the AFC hold onto to their slender lead – you bet they can and increase it they did, as on 75 minutes that man Heritage again in a replica dribble, torments the TVPL defence before crossing for McLennon to fire home 4-2. Surely with so many heavy legs the AFC had to hold that two gaol cushion. But this competition has already shown it has goals a plenty and once again a needless foul in the box results in another penalty to TVPL, which is dispatched 4-3. Now the pressure mounts and manager Cross makes his first change bringing on George Proctor of Sutts to replace the tiring Holt as TVPL make their third and final change, they have chanced it by adding a forward at the expense of a defender.
We move into the last 10 minutes and the TVPL pressure is relentless but skipper Aidan Chapman of Meads holds his defensive group together but the AFC supporters are getting frustrated and worried that their team won’t hold out………………..well cometh the hour cometh that man Heritage again, as a rare AFC attack sees the TVPL keeper hack the ball clear well out of his area, but only to Chris Heritage 40 yards out, one step to the left and one to the right, shoot we scream, with the keeper well out of position, he fires a dipping shot which crashes against the cross bar and falls agonisingly on the line………….but super sub Proctor manages to win the race and taps home from 6 inches 5-3. The AFC contingent go absolutely wild, what a game, the excitement is unbelievable. Two minutes plus stoppages to hold out – surely Aidan and his colleagues can cope. In an instant the AFC crowd are silenced as Langford of TVPL went on a heritage like run, evading tackle after tackle before planting a cracker past Parlett. 5-4.
Please not extra time – let’s just hold out, 5 minutes of added time seems like 15 as TVPL attack and attack and the AFC make their last change, Jones of Meads for Bright to eat up a few seconds. Chances fly inches wide and Parlett again smothers a close range effort. The support from the crowd is deafening, blow that whistle ref, we cry and finally he does, Yet another absolute classic sees the AFC team march into the semi-finals were they have been drawn at home to the winners of North Riding vs Isle of Man, which is being played on Sunday 18th February. A very set of tired players and jubilant supporters then ate and drank in the Casuals bar, who had put on an excellent day for both teams and need to receive huge thanks for allowing us to use their facilities.