In what can only be described as a pulsating game of school football, Calday’s Year 11 team squeezed past The Heath School (THS) from Runcorn under the lights in Bidston on Thursday evening to progress in the National Cup.
Calday looked to control the possession in the opening parts of the game, passing the ball with confidence and getting into good areas. Indeed, in the fifth minute, Sterry’s cross-cum-shot seemed to take forever to travel through the air before striking the crossbar with the away keeper stranded.
The game continued in a similar manner, and it was on 10 minutes when CGGS took the lead. Following an attack by THS, Calday regained possession and were quick to counter. Allport carried the ball to the right-hand side of the area before cutting back to Dancey who pounced to put the hosts ahead.
However, the visitors looked dangerous down the left and were keen to shoot whenever they had sight of the Calday goal. Wiggins was largely untroubled, though, as Calday defended resolutely.
It was in the 20th minute when the men in maroon created daylight between the two sides. Russell, whose nifty footwork befuddled the THS defence all evening, drove down the left and whipped in a wicked cross to the near post. Allport’s first-time effort was well-saved by the away keeper, though Blackie was ready to pick up the pieces, as he finished well to take the lead to 2-0.
The two-goal advantage was halved, however, 10 minutes later. After a good passing move down the left once again, the visitors’ main man received the ball 25 yards out, turned quickly and looped his effort over Wiggins and into the top corner.
It was from this point when the drama began. Two minutes later, Dempsey hammered the ball home after Dancey’s corner had caused a goalmouth scramble to take the lead to 3-1. But the side from Runcorn pulled a goal back just as quickly, converting from a dangerous free kick. 3-2.
The half-time break arrived, as both teams (and their coaches!) caught their breath and reset for the second half. In addition, Pike and Martin were introduced for Calday at the interval, both returning to the squad following several weeks out with injury.
THS started the second half on the front foot in a similar vein to how they ended the first half, allowing Calday little time on the ball and growing in confidence. They were rewarded for their endeavours on 59 minutes in generous fashion, as a miscommunication in the Calday team opened up a clear path for the attacker to carry the ball and fire into the bottom corner to level the game for the first time since Calday opened the scoring.
Calday were not to be disheartened by the come-back, however, and were keen to put their stamp back on the game as quickly as possible. And they did just this on 65, five minutes after the equaliser, with Brocklehurst claiming his second goal of the season thanks to an opportunistic finish in another scramble from a corner.
To solidify the midfield, Hill was added to the action shortly after, and he worked indefatigably to ensure THS were unable to hold onto the ball for sustained periods. Calday began to take the cup tie by the scruff of the neck and rose the intensity as they headed into the final 10 minutes. It was Captain, Allport, who took the score to 5-3, as he collected the ball on the right, dribbled towards the edge of the box and stroked the ball to the keeper’s right with pin-point accuracy.
But the game just kept on giving. The visitors, who deserve credit for their determination, left the many supporting CGGS parents nervous for the final five minutes, as a fine finish reduced the deficit to 1 once more.
Nevertheless, with the addition of Lane on the right, Calday saw out the game with professionalism. They worked hard keep THS pinned back in their own half for large periods and claimed a well-deserved victory.
The team progresses to the fourth round of the national competition and will travel to Neston in the coming days. Congratulations to all involved for their resilient performances: many could have been awarded MOTM, including Brocklehurst in the middle, but Russell ultimately deserves the credit for his involvement in many of Calday’s major opportunities and goals.