The Reserves beat Division 2 table toppers Stedfast 3-2 on penalties (0-0 AET) to reach the MCFL Junior Open Cup Final, to be held on April 27th.
The Dragons arrived to an unfamiliar warm welcome at Osterley having been promoted to the senior pitch and changing rooms for their second semi of the season. This combined with the beautiful spring afternoon lead to a hugely positive atmosphere in the dressing room pre match, the Dragons focused but also relaxed with one county cup final already in the bank.
With a solid spine through the centre of the team the Dragons started superbly, From the kick off the No 9 Jon Laycock chased down a back pass to the keeper who slammed the clearance at him with the ball looping on to the bar. They pressed further, Luke Giles and James Shirley getting the better of their opposing midfield in the early exchanges to give the Dragons the platform they needed. From the right, Reiss Corr slowly began to get involved and a flick from Laycock got him in one on one but the lobbed effort fell short and the keeper snaffled it up. A few minutes later he was in again after a terrific ball from Giles, this time he composed himself to run in on goal and sent the keeper one way and hit his shot the other but the effort rebounded off a post and was safely cleared. However the clearest opportunity fell to Laycock, the keeper dropping a cross, the striker swivelled to fire into the empty net but his scuffed shot only made it to the goal line when cleared by a desperate defender. Stedfast occasionally threatened but the re-jigged back 4 coped well and keeper Joseph Muyanja’s skills were left for later. HT 0-0
The second half was an even affair and often end to end, however the Dragons always looked the more likely and winger Jack Lyons made a mazy run through the penalty area but his shot was blocked well. In his new Number 10 role, Dean Humphrey was now well in the game too and coming out on top of his battle with his very physical and competent opposing midfielder. With Stedfast now causing a few problems, step forward 2 super centre backs and 2 substitute full backs. Kieran Cox and 17 year old Ade Akerdolu were on immense form in clearing, tackling, heading, you name it they did the stuff. Fullbacks Justas Krisciunas and Romone Bedeau fought like tigers and often covered as the last man to great effect. As the clock ticked down it seemed inevitable that it would be extra time and indeed it was.
Suddenly it was clear that Stedfast were spent physically and the Dragons dominated the extra 30 minutes. 10 minutes in and Steve Cahill drove down the left and drew his center back, Laycock screamed for a square ball and Cahill delivered perfectly. However, lacking confidence, Laycock’s touch was heavy and the keeper closed down the angle and saved. That was the striker’s last contribution with the returning Shegun Beckley on to give a little extra pace as Stedfast tired. He caused trouble from the outset but with a bit of rustiness failed to break the deadlock. AET 0-0
Director of Football Smith and Manager Laycock picked their penalty takers carefully, going for the ones who really fancied it, one being keeper Muyanja. Captain Humphrey stepped up and smashed home, followed by a breathtaking tip round the post from the Dragons Numero uno. Giles made it 2, sending the keeper the wrong way before Stedfast got off the mark. 2-1. Cahill then slotted home number three and when Muyanja saved again the dragons were left needing one save or one score from 4 pens. The otherwise excellent Shirley scuffed one wide and suddenly it dawned on the rest of the Dragons that it was now all about Joseph Muyanja, left to face 2 pens and take his own! He failed to save the next for 3-2 but then with gloves off missed his own and the 2nd chance to kill the tie. With Dragons nerves shredded he put the gloves back on and returned to the goal, leaping majestically to the left to palm away the last penalty and the celebrations began. FT 3-2 on pens (0-0 AET).