Corinthian 0-0 Fisher
Tuesday 5 March 2019
SCEFL Challenge Cup – Semi-finals (1st leg)
Fisher travelled to Corinthian for the second of their four games in six weeks with title rivals Corinthian, but put league aspirations aside in favour of battling for a cup final appearance. As is often the case the first leg of this semi-final was a cagey affair and from the announcement of the teams it was clear Fisher were looking to ensure they stayed in the tie rather than adopting a gung-ho approach to kill the tie off at the first attempt. Afi Soyemi-Olade was given the number 9 shirt as Fisher looked to use his pace to pick up any offerings on the counter attack with Kushal Campbell Palmer dropping to the bench. Defensive colossus Dan Flemming was still out injured but Harry Tobin was able to slot in seamlessly and Trey Small served his one match suspension for the sending off in the league game against the hosts with Damo Ramsamy back from his suspension able to deputise.
Having quickly gone two down in their last away game, Fisher started far more solidly, aided by playing down the significant slope on the Corinthian pitch and forced the first opportunity when Chandler Kasai was felled in a promising position but the free kick was blocked on the edge of the box. Despite Corinthian looking threatening on the break Fisher were well on top in the early exchanges , forcing a couple a corners but never managing to deliver a final ball to create a clear cut chance. Momentum swung back to the hosts after Rob Brown required extensive treatment after slightly over reaching in an attempt to burst through the midfield and coming off worse in a thunderous fifty-fifty challenge with a Corinthian counterpart – the ball had been there for both to win and the referee correctly started with a drop ball rather than the free kick Fisher wanted. However the challenge seemed to wake up the inner tiger in the Corinthians and the tackling became more robust and suspect, yet it was Richie Hamill who was first into the referee’s book when he was turned by a Corinthian forward whose quick footwork drew the foul. It seemed more a case of clever play from the forward than intent from the defender but resulted in a booking for Hamill and a very well placed free kick for the hosts. However Dan Wheeler produced an excellent low save parrying wide of the goal to save the Fish.
Both sides seemed reluctant to fully commit to attack – possibly an argument for a single tie semi- final in future – but the midfield battle was intense. Pat Geddis was booked for blocking off a Corinthian counter attack yet play was waved on when two Fisher players were blocked in a similar break out moments later and a sense of injustice rose when Rob Brown was struck in the face by a flaying arm to see another drop ball awarded. Fisher’s best chance of the half fell to Mudi Wanagho when he rose to head a well delivered corner, but the direction was lacking when a sight of goal seemed to open up. The half ended with Corinthian pushing for the opening goal and Wheeler again had to save well from a free kick after Tobin was penalised and booked in similar circumstance and positon to Hamill earlier.
With the slope now against them Fisher knew they would need to battle hard to stop the hosts extending the 13 match winning run and ensure they took the tie back to St Pauls at least all square. Clear chances were few and far between as both side’s midfield shape and endeavour blunted each other out and neither team could find a final ball into the box. Corinthian in particular wasted a number of promising positions with an over hit final ball rolling down the slope into Wheeler’s hands.
Kasai was booked for a late challenge on the near touchline and the resulting free kick produced a series of corners as Fisher had to defend tenaciously to keep out the hosts. Wheeler’s handling was impeccable and time and again Fisher players found a crucial block. At the other end Soyemi-Olade’s pace was causing Corinthian some concern but an element of overplaying slowed up some promising breaks as Corinthians flooded back to smoother the counter attacks aided by the referee’s interpretation of going to ground prior to a tackle and leading into it with a raised leg as legal.
Kushal Campbell Palmer was introduced for Kasai allowing Soyemi-Olade to revert to the left wing where has been so impressive in recent games. He immediately unnerved the Corinthian left back who dragged him over near the corner flag and whilst the foul was innocuous his reaction in barging the referee seemed lucky to only result in a yellow card. Rob Brown’s resultant free kick was cleared for a corner but Corinthian’s defence was up to the task of clearing the subsequent danger.
As the game went in the closing stages Fisher looked to tire and Corinthian pushed hard to find the opening. Wanagho went down when unchallenged and when it became obvious could not continue Stephen Adeyemi entered the fray – not a time either side would have wanted to change their back line, but the height of Adeyemi was to prove useful when Corinthian’s hung over a late corner and a looping header was clawed away by what appeared to be a glove of Wheeler and a forehead of Adeyemi. The game became stretched and both sides looked to break quickly and set their attackers free to run at tiring defenders. In one late break the ever impressive Andy Mott was floored and for a second yellow Corinthian’s left back was rightly sent off.
The travelling Fish faithful – an impressive 25 made the trip – urged Fisher to the finish line – and the players responded to the increasing noise from the ‘bus shelter’ stand to ensure that tackles were still being made as the game moved into the eighth minute of the four minutes minimum added. The urgency with which the Corinthian players rushed to retrieve balls out of play indicated that it was they more than Fisher that felt time was running out and with it an opportunity to make the most of home advantage had not been taken. There was a feeling in the crowd that we would have taken the draw before the game so the final whistle was well received by the visitors who whilst they have not registered an away goal (which will only come into the reckoning if scores are still level after extra time in the second leg) have home advantage with the tie still on a tightrope.
Man of the match contenders include Andy Mott for his usual tireless ball carrying and running, Jamie Brown for another impressive showing at right back and Pat Geddis for a tackle count to rival an American Football tight end, but for his two excellent saves from free kicks, impeccable handling and organisation of the back line to ensure a clean sheet, Dan Wheeler gets the vote.
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