DHSOB booked their place in the semi-finals of the Cu-Plas FA Cup and ending St George’s quest for the Grand Slam in a fierce contest at Blackberry Lane on Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Gary Quirk and Craig Stewart, the latter a controversial penalty, were enough to seal a 2-1 victory over their main title rivals, despite Calum Morrissey’s spectacular first-half strike for the visitors.
Old Boys got off to the perfect start when the combination of brothers Callum and Craig Stewart fed the ball to live wire winger Gary Quirk who turned on the edge of the Geordies penalty area before firing an excellent right-footed shot low past the despairing dive of stand-in goalkeeper Chris Kelly, just four minutes into the contest.
The hosts thought they had doubled their advantage just shy of the quarter-hour mark when right-back John Quirk went on a surging run up field before stinging the palms of Kelly with a venomous shot from all of 35 yards. Such was the power in the shot that Kelly could only parry the ball into the path of Sean Gavin who fired home the rebound from an acute angle, but his celebrations were cut short by the linesman’s flag.
It wasn’t long before they were made to rue that decision as Chris Bass Sr’s visitors conjured up an equaliser of top quality. Kelly launched a long ball down field to Morrissey who expertly chested the ball down before smashing a thunderous left-footed volley from 30 yards over the stranded figure of Old Boys keeper Sam Holliday and into the back of the net. It was a strike reminiscent of Morrissey’s effort against Rushen in the final of the same competition last Easter.
Both sides shared a series of half chances as the half progressed but clear chances were at a premium before the interval, the closest being James McStay’s header flying narrowly over the cross bar after good work down the left wing by Geordies playmaker Ciaran McNulty.
The hosts came close to regaining the lead shortly after the break when Gavin’s low cross was almost turned into his own net at the near post by Geordies full-back Ste Corlett but the ball trickled wide with Kelly beaten.
Colin Purvis’s men suffered a huge setback on the hour mark when influential centre-back Iain Ramsay was forced off with a hamstring injury, forcing a reshuffle across the park by Old Boys.
Ramsay’s defensive partner Liam Buckley had to be at his best to deny Jamie Skillen minutes later when the former St Mary’s men turned his marker before firing a fierce drive goal-wards, but the hosts’ No.4 was on hand to block his effort.
With St George’s pressing their hosts back in their own half, the Glencrutchery Road outfit were at times susceptible to counter attacks and were almost undone when skipper Craig Stewart found Gavin in space on the left side of the area, but his curling effort was superbly tipped over the bar by Kelly.
However, they weren’t to be denied much longer as they were handed the chance to score in controversial circumstances two minutes later. Another quick counter resulted in Gary Quirk bursting through the heart of the Geordies’ defence before opting to go around the goalkeeper. Kelly was then adjudged to have brought down the winger, much to the disdain of the St George’s players and staff who felt that the shot-stopper had clearly taken the ball.
Their appeals were in vain and, once the arguments had subsided, Craig Stewart stepped up and slotted his spot-kick into the bottom right corner, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way.
As the visitors poured forward in search of a late equaliser to force extra time and possibly penalties, the Old Boys rearguard defended resolutely and the hosts very nearly made it 3-1 following another swift counter attack. Breaking with speed, the Old Boys attack outnumbered the Geordies defence resulting in Craig Stewart laying the ball off to Callum Stewart whose first-time shot cannoned off the woodwork and away to safety in the dying seconds.
Thus the match ended 2-1 and while St George’s feel hard done by the manner of their defeat, their first of the season, Old Boys will be confident of going on to claim the FA Cup which they last won two years ago.
DHSOB: Sam Holliday, John Quirk, Dean France, Liam Buckley, Iain Ramsay (David Quirk 62m), Michael Hooper, Robbie Ward, Craig Stewart (c), Sean Gavin (Lee Ford 90m), Gary Quirk (Phil Knox 93m), Callum Stewart
St George’s: Chris Kelly, Ste Corlett (Sam Caine 65m), Sean Quaye (c), Robin Bates, Julian Ringham, Jamie Skillen, Frank Jones, James Mcstay, Chris Bass Jr, Ciaran McNulty, Calum Morrissey. Subs not used: Danny McMahon and Lee Dixon
Referee: Alan Cowin
Assistants: Colin Coole and Anthony Quayle
Booked: Buckley and Ward (DHSOB), Kelly, McStay and McNulty (St George’s)
Man of the Match: Buckley (DHSOB) - A rock at the heart of defence of the hosts, especially after defensive partner Iain Ramsay went off with a hamstring injury early in the second half. Closely followed by several players, including Geordies’ Morrissey for his wonder goal in the first half
Match rating: HHHHI
l In the remaining quarter-final played on Saturday afternoon, St Mary’s secured their place in the last four in emphatic style with a 7-1 win over Castletown. Marc Priestnal lead the scoring with a hat-trick while there were braces for Martin Reilly and Tom Weir. Mike Williams netted for the Town.