CUP SEMI Hare n Hounds 4 – 4 Sabden

Hare & Hounds 4 – 4 Sabden FC (aet)
(Hare & Hounds win 4-3 on penalties)

A penalty shootout once again meant Cup heartbreak for Sabden, after a gruelling 120 minute thriller ended with honours even at 4-4.

In what turned out to be their finest performance of the season, Sabden came from behind 3 times to level and almost snatched what would have been a richly deserved victory in the 119th minute, only for the woodwork to deny them their place in the final.

Both teams started the match well, with Sabden dominating the middle of the park, and Hare and Hounds breaking smartly down the flanks. Both defences were well marshalled and early chances were at a premium.

Right midfielder, Jonny Heap almost broke the deadlock on 8 minutes as a poor clearance from the keeper found Heap about 40 yards from goal. His cheeky lob sailed over the keeper`s head but he was able to rush back to make a smart save on his goal-line and the blushes were saved.

However, it was Hounds who drew first blood. On 14 minutes vice-captain Adam Fuller made an innocuous challenge which the referee took exception to and awarded, in our opinion, a fairly soft penalty. Sabden`s keeper Tom Diggins dived smartly to his left to keep out the resulting kick, but sadly the follow up was smashed into the net to give Hounds the lead.

Sabden kept their cool and intelligent play on the left flank by Zac Musker and Jason Bates ensured a constant supply to centre forward David Fallon, who terrorised the Hound`s defence all afternoon. Not to be outdone by their colleagues on the left, Heap and the commanding Ben Dewhurst on the right hand side also gave the men in Orange plenty to think about.

Despite lots of intricate plays, the equalising goal arriving on 28 minutes was somewhat bizarre. The otherwise solid Hound`s keeper attempted a clearance which hit the backside of Fallon and bobbled into the net.

The final ten minutes of the first half were one of the very few low points in the game for the men in red and black. Two scruffy goals were conceded during this period and Sabden went in at half-time 3-1 down.

If the defence had been perhaps guilty of switching off towards the end of the first half, they redeemed themselves totally in a second half display of dominance, with Jack Birkett and Zac Ashworth obliterating any threat that the Hounds had. This allowed the midfield trio of Ryan Graves, Adam Fuller and Will Child to get hold of the game and dictate play.

It was Child who came up with a goal, his first of the season, to make it 3-2; rising to power a header home from a pinpoint Fuller corner. The joy was fairly short-lived however, as Hounds scored a 4th goal 5 minutes later, a vicious shot being lashed in at Diggins` near post

Whilst the score was now 4-2 against with 20 minutes to play, Hare and Hounds legs were starting to tire and Sabden cranked up the pressure. Dave Kerrison, a replacement on the right for Heap, added some much needed energy, and a smart through ball allowed David Fallon to race through and despatch his shot beyond the despairing dive of the Hound`s keeper. 4 -3 ; all to play for !!

With time running out, Sol Islam replaced the exhausted but excellent Child, and Sabden reverted to their familiar 4-4-2 in order to crank up the pressure on a Hounds team that was now completely out of steam and content to hold onto what they had.

On 82 minutes the change paid off, as a panicking defender succeeded on hitting his own post and Fallon gleefully swept the rebound into an empty net for his hat-trick and Sabden`s richly deserved equaliser.

The Full Time whistle recorded a score of 4-4. A further 30 minutes of football was played but by now both teams were out on their feet and chances were few and far between. Sabden`s final substitute Tom Connell was brought on to ensure that no further goals were conceded.

As the game lurched towards the 120th minute, Fallon was put through on goal and raced forwards. He clipped his shot expertly past the left hand of the keeper, but the post denied Fallon his 4th goal and Sabden their automatic place in the final.

Shortly afterwards, the referee blew to take the semi-final to penalties. The shootout was won by Hare and Hounds 4-3; and we wish them well in the final.

Despite the defeat the Sabden lads should quite rightly feel immensely proud of their performance.