Fantastic, gutsy performance sees ten-man Fisher through to the next round of the SCEFL Challenge Cup after extra time
Fisher returned to St Paul’s for an SCEFL Challenge Cup tie against their conquerors on the first day of the league season, Kent Football United. However, it was a very different looking Fisher side which took to the field: not only has boss Dean Harrison made a number of signings to bolster his squad since August, but a mixture of injuries and the need to rest certain key players saw several changes made to the team that was victorious at Sutton Athletic on Saturday. In came Liam Cameron for his debut in goals, and Jack Bullock made his full debut in the number 9 jersey. There were also starts for the Italian maestro, Paolo Facchinetti, and the tricky Cameron Stevenson who has been looking dangerous from the bench in recent weeks.
Fisher enjoyed the balance of possession and chances in the first half, but KFU always looked dangerous. The first real chance came for the visitors in the 9th minute, when a low cross from the Fisher left was partially cleared by Dan Flemming. The ball spun up into the air and was volleyed back towards goal by the KFU number 7 who proved a handful for the Fisher defence throughout the game. A joint effort between two Fisher defenders blocked the shot, before Nathan Hunter cleared.
Just a minute later, Fisher took the lead. A long throw into the box by Rogers was cleared but only as far as the excellent Ritchie Hamill, who drove into the box, hit the byline and cut the ball across the face of goal where the waiting Jamie Brown turned the ball into the unguarded net.
However, Fisher suffered a blow on 15 minutes, when Jamie Brown pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury. The winger has been on excellent form in recent weeks and must now be a doubt for Saturday. Brown was replaced by Trey Small, who was to play a key role in the match.
Fisher continued to press and Hamill had two chances to extend the lead. On 21 minutes, the KFU keeper blocked his shot from close range and, although the ball bounced around the box, Fisher just couldn’t get another shot away. Three minutes later, Hamill ran beyond his man in midfield then drove a diagonal shot towards the right hand post, where it was tipped past by the keeper. From the resulting corner, Fisher hit the underside of the bar, with the ball bouncing down onto the line before being cleared.
On the half hour mark, KFU threatened again. The ball was cut back from inside the box to an unmarked player 8 yards out and just to the right of goal. His shot was blocked, and the ball spun up and just out of Cameron’s reach. It fell nicely for the KFU number 7 whose first shot was blocked. The ball fell kindly for him a second time, and again the Fisher defence managed to block and then clear.
Right on half time, KFU swung a deep cross into the box from their right flank. Nathan Hunter headed up into the air, and the ball was taken down by the KFU attacker before the ref inexplicably blew for a free kick to Fisher. It was not the first, and certainly not the last, odd decision by the referee.
Half time: Fisher 1-0 KFU. Fisher were pleased to go in one up at the break after a fiercely contested half.
If Fisher had enjoyed the better of the first half, with KFU remaining dangerous, the second half was almost a mirror image with KFU being the stronger of the two sides. However, it was Fisher who nearly doubled their lead early on. In the third minute of the half, Fisher won a corner. Dan Flemming went up but the ball was met by a KFU defender and headed out for a second corner just before Fisher’s big number 5 could get his header in on goal. Facchinetti took the corner from the left this time, and his curling effort was left by the KFU keeper, whose blushes were spared by a defender clearing off the line. Cameron Stevenson picked up the loose ball 25 yards out and his pace took him through the KFU defence to the byline, where he was tackled and a third corner in quick succession was awarded, but this time the KFU defence cleared easily.
The half quickly became scrappy, with neither side able to hold the ball for long. On 63 minutes, a scuffed shot by Trye Small form inside the box nearly made its way to the waiting Bullock, but a lunging KFU centre half poked the ball over his own bar. From the corner, Rob Brown headed off the outside of the post but the ref blew for a free kick to KFU.
Three minutes later, Ritchie Hamill set off on a lung bursting run down the left touchline, somehow keeping the ball in play. He beat his man for pace, then nutmegged the second defender and drove into the box. From an acute angle, Hamill’s shot beat the keeper all ends up but came thudding off the post.
KFU started to get the better of Fisher, and on 67 minutes a sharp turn in the box from their number 9 gave him the space to shoot beyond the diving Cameron but also beyond the far post. A minute later, KFU shot from inside the box. Fisher made the block but the ball came back to the attacker whose low shot was heading just inside the right hand post until Cameron got down sharply to make a smart save.
Fisher did not heed the warning, and only two minutes later the equaliser came. A cross came in from the right touchline and Cameron went down under pressure as he tried to gather. The ref failed to blow for a foul, and the loose ball was nodded in from close range.
Harrison brought Harry Draper on for Facchinetti immediately after the goal. Draper was soon in the referee’s book for a typically combative tackle on the Fisher left. The free kick was taken direct despite the angle and distance, but the shot flew just over.
A barnstorming run from Dan Flemming then saw him beat two men, drive deep into the KFU half and then shoot across the face of goal form outside the box with 15 minutes to go. Fisher then had two late chances to win it. The first came after Hamill held off two players in the centre of the park, then dinked the ball over the defence to the onrushing Stevenson. He burst into the box but shot over from the left side. Stevenson turned provider right before the full time whistle, crossing to Trey Small who had a free header but could only direct the ball wide.
Full time: Fisher 1-1 KFU. Over the 90, the 1-1 scoreline was probably a fair reflection. Both teams fought hard and had their chances to win the game.
With the game having to be settled on the night, the two sides got extra time underway. After only 6 minutes, Harry Draper picked up a second yellow for dissent, reducing Fisher to ten men. In fairness to Draper, he was criticizing a frankly astounding decision by the referee to award a corner to KFU after their left winger had sliced the ball behind and walked away swearing loudly at himself!
The game continued at a furious pace, with both sides battling hard. The KFU made another save from Ritchie Hamill on 99 minutes, before another controversial decision by the ref saw the KFU keeper booked for handling outside the box. Having taken the ball off the feet of Jack Bullock, there was certainly an argument – made loudly by the Fisher bench and support – that the keeper had denied a goalscoring opportunity and should have been sent off, but a direct free kick was the result. Hamill’s shot was blocked, and Rob Brown’s rebound met the same fate.
Half time in extra time: Fisher 1-1 KFU. The game remained balanced on a knife edge, with KFU unable to make the man advantage count and Fisher unable to get the goal they needed on the break.
The second half of extra time continued as before: a cagey and hotly contested affair. Chances were few and far between, and it took a bit of magic to settle the tie. Who else to provide the magic but Ritchie Hamill, he of the famous magic hat (he could have signed for Beckenham, but he said…)! A delightful sliderule through ball on 118 minutes put Trey Small in on goal. His pace took him beyond the defence and he bore down on the advancing keeper before slipping the ball under him and into the net at the Dockers End. A cool finish that belied his years, and the Fisher faithful erupted!
Fisher nearly scored again a minute later after a determined run down the left by Jack Rogers was ended by a tackle by the KFU right back. Rob Brown picked up the loose ball and turned his man inside out on the edge of the box, but his shot was blocked by the legs of the KFU keeper. Shortly after, the ref blew the final whistle to Fisher’s obvious delight.
Full time in extra time: Fisher 2-1 KFU. A fantastic team effort saw Fisher through to the next round. The team ran themselves into the ground, never letting up right to the final whistle. Indeed, they finished the stronger of the two sides despite having only ten men, which is testament to their fitness and workrate. Dean Harrison was rightly proud of his men at the end, and the team were cheered from the pitch by the ecstatic home support.
Man of the match: it seems almost unfair to single out any one player after such a courageous team performance. However, the award goes to Ritchie Hamill: the captain led by example throughout the game, keeping and using the ball intelligently as always, and his two fine assists were ultimately the difference between the two teams.
Fisher FC 2-1 Kent Football United
Tuesday 3 October 2017
SCEFL Challenge Cup 1st round
Jamie Brown 10
Trey Small 118
Nick Gonsalves 66