FRANK Jones’s goal eight minutes into the second half of extra time ensured St George’s claimed a seventh BCS Railway Cup at the Bowl on Boxing Day.
The island midfielder’s strike against former club St Mary’s keeps the unbeaten Premier League leaders 2011-12 grand slam hopes alive despite a laboured performance against Peter Langridge’s men.
Both sides had chances to win the tie in the regulation 90, but some wayward shooting and some inspired goalkeeping meant the game remained deadlocked.
Geordies continued to heap pressure on the St Mary’s goal in the first half of the additional 30 but, as with the rest of the game, a goal failed to materialise.
With penalties looming large Jones slotted past man of the match Max Thomas to break the hearts of his former team-mates.
The inclusion of the home for Christmas quartet – Conor Doyle, Jack McVey, Jamie Skillen and Alex Harrison – to an already talented St George’s squad made them strong favourites for the traditional yuletide spoils.
However, the vibrancy in the attacking third that has become of trademark of Geordies play was for once missing, stifled by some stout St Mary’s defending and some unusually poor St George’s decision making.
Indeed after a cagey start to proceedings it was a resolute St Mary’s that enjoyed the tie’s first real chance when Steven Priestnal’s free kick was tipped onto the post by Geordies stopper Grant Dawson.
At the other end of a wind-swept Bowl pitch a long throw found its way through a crowded St Mary’s box to Chris Bass Jr, but for once the island winger lost his ice-cool composure firing over.
St George’s began to more and more territory in their opponents half, but they struggled to turn this possession into clear-cut chances – Jones coming closest when his well-struck volley was well saved by the feet of Thomas.
Some more direct play by St Mary’s brought them back into the game, but again the Bowl outfit were indebted to Thomas for keeping them in the tie when he somehow clawed away Conor Doyle’s cross come shot after it had caught in the stiff wind.
The island keeper continued to showcase his talents and had to be on his mettle to deny Doyle again this time after the winger had been played in by Calum Morrissey eight minutes before the break.
The start of the second period again spawned another good opportunity for Priestnal. Again a free-kick provided the top-flight’s leading marksman with the chance to add to his seasonal haul. Like the first half, however, Dawson matched the flame haired marksman, parrying the striker’s effort over.
From the resulting corner, youngster Connor Gorman hit the bar as St Mary’s continued to show they weren’t just there to make up the numbers.
St Mary’s Brian Crellin then went close after seizing on a loose clearance from Dawson. The mercurial midfielder returned Dawson’s stray pass with interest his resulting shot just drifting wide as the Geordies keeper scrambled back to cover his goal.
In the other half St George’s continued to toil and Ciaran McNulty went close with a near-volley before Doyle was again impressively denied by Thomas after a surging run from the halfway line.
Geordies continued to pour forward in search of a late winner and possibly their best move of the match down the left flank seemed to have presented them with a the opportunity to do just that. However, once again Chris Bass Sr’s Glencrutchery Road outfit passed up the chance as McNulty fired over to send the tie into extra time.
Steven Priestnal once again threatened to derail St George’s grand slam aspirations at the start of the additional 30 when his cross come shot sailed over a rooted Dawson and crashed against the bar.
St George’s responded by pinning their opponents into their half but struggled to really test Thomas.
St Mary’s again nearly snatched the win four minutes into the second part of extra time when Priestnal dinked ball got a feint touch off substitute Dave Skillen, bit former St Mary’s man Liam Cowin was on hand to clear the ball away from the Geordies’ line.
St George’s seized their reprieve with both hands Chris Bass Jr surging towards goal before slipping the ball inside to an unmarked Jones. The island international did the rest finishing neatly past Thomas to retain the magnificent trophy for his side.
St Mary’s Max Thomas, Tony Cain, Adam Pate, Dominic McGreevy, Liam Doyle, Chris Anderson (Marc Priestnal 89m), Connor Gorman (James Murphy 73m), Tom Weir, Martin Reilly, Steven Priestnal, Brian Crellin (Dave Skillen 77m). Subs not used Keith Byrne and Richard Sharman.
St George’s Grant Dawson, Liam Cowin, Sean Quaye, Johnny Myers, Julian Ringham, Frank Jones, Andy Bass (Jack McVey 52m), Conor Doyle (Alex Harrison 103m), Chris Bass Jr, Calum Morrissey (Jamie Skillen 68m), Ciaran McNulty. Subs not used Sam Caine and Robin Bates.
Referee Tommy Crowe. Assistants John Lovelady and Andy Lodge. Fourth official Ian Fisher.
Booked Anderson, Pate (St Mary’s); Doyle (St George’s)
Man of the Match Thomas (St Mary’s) Island stopper capped a fine all-round performance with a series of breathtaking saves.
Match rating 3*