Reserves miss their chance in MCFA Final

Barnet MO First 3 v 1 Kensington Dragons Reserves

The Reserves lost in the MFCA Junior Trophy Final 1-3 AET against Barnet MO firsts.. (1-1 90 mins) (at Feltham FC)

The Dragons fell at the last hurdle of a great cup campaign and left them with just the one chance of silverware next week in the MCFL Junior Open final.

They arrived in great spirits and well prepared however having lost key forward George Mariner the previous night to injury the attacking line had been weakened somewhat. The Dragons fans arrived in droves though and they still very much fancied their chances from the off.

A hectic start provided end to end football from the off with the Dragons creating the better chances, James Shirley played in Luke Giles who took a beautiful touch to race clear and his lobbed effort caught the wind and grazed the bar. Shortly after Barnet took the lead. Dean Humphrey and Kieran Cox got caught a little flat at the back and the winger cut in and scuffed a shot, which very unluckily hit Ade Akerdolu on the cover and left keeper Ian Whitmore wrong footed, the ball slowly rolling into the corner. The Dragons responded quickly, Giles turned provider and put in wideman Jack Lyons. The nippy winger rounded the keeper beautifully but with the empty goal beckoning lost his balance and fluffed his lines. This seemed to give Barnet more confidence and put the Dragons on the back foot. They began to build well down the left playing some very good football in the last 15 minutes of the half but the Dragons made it to the break unlucky to be a goal down. Director of Football Tony Smith and First Team Manager Miguel De Souza had seen the problem late in the first half and insisted that the back line pushed higher up the pitch to allow the midfield to be closer to the front line. As the second half began it was clear that the change was working with the Dragons totally dominant from the off. Shirley and Giles were immense in midfield with Adam Finch also building the play nicely. Chances came and went, the best of which fell to Lyons again. Striker Jon Laycock bounded down the left after great work from Hassan Osman and his cutback was beautifully turned on by Giles for Lyons. However with just the last defender to beat and the keeper rushing back his tame effort was cleared for a corner. From the corner the ball found its way to Laycock but the forward’s well struck shot just cleared the bar from 15 yards. The Dragons were now totally dominant but with 15 minutes left time was running out. Finch was replaced by Will Conway and Lyons by Reiss Corr. Osman then played in Laycock again down the left, the striker took an excellent touch to get the ball in front of him and as he went for the next touch in the box the otherwise excellent centre back brought him down, the Dragons relieved to see the ref point to the spot. The ever reliable Humphrey, having never missed a Dragons penalty, stepped up but the keeper claimed to the ref the ball had moved on the wind. The midfield man had to reset the ball and changed his mind…. and frustratingly blasted over from 12 yards.

However if one thing has been learned this season the Reserves do not lack heart. Steve Cahill, who caused Barnet problems throughout, pinged in a wicked free kick and 17 year old right back Akerdolu lept acrobatically to bicycle kick into the top corner. An amazing bit of technique and the Dragons finally had their deserved equaliser. However the experienced Humphrey, having a great game other than the penalty miss, had to come off with 5 minutes left and suddenly the Dragons looked a very young and inexperienced side. As veteran Laycock pleaded for cool heads amazingly they did the opposite. The left winger got into the box and Akerdolu went to ground too late and unbelievably Barnet had a pen of their own in stoppage time. However the captain hit the exact same penalty as Humphrey, the ball flying over the bar and for the first time that night things seemed to be going the Dragons way. 1-1 FT

The problem now was after giving everything to try and win the game in 90 the team looked tired, Shirley and Osman were suffering from cramp, Laycock with heavy blisters and having lost 3 experienced starters the average age of the team was now around 19. Could they give one final push to win the tie? The answer was no sadly. All of a sudden with the calm heads on the bench wounded, the young Dragons played the occasion and not the extra time period, too often jumping in when standing off was needed. They scraped through the first period but late in the second a long ball was headed safely to keeper Whitmore with Will Conway covering their striker. However the two got confused and Whitmore had to dive in as the striker pressed. He palmed it away but took out Conway in the process and left the striker with an empty net to fire Barnet back in to the lead. As they pushed on the tired back line’s legs got punished by the captain, desperate to make up for his penalty miss, driving across the penalty box and firing a deflected shot into the corner and the game was over. Barnet had 2 shots on target in 120 minutes and scored 3 goals, the Dragons could only look back on 10-12 guilt edge chances that they failed to take and went home with a runners up medal instead of cup celebrations.