SUBSTITUTE Gary Quirk came to the rescue of Douglas High School Old Boys’ latest Cu-Plas FA Cup bid at a bright and breezy Blackberry Lane on Saturday.
The winger’s 75th minute strike ensured the 2009 winners saw off a stubborn and hard-working Colby 1-0 and set up a first round proper tie against Ramsey next month.
The high-flying hosts were expected to make short work of their JCK Division Two opponents but the expected onslaught never materialised as the southerners produced a gritty performance led by goalkeeper and man of the match Jay Gandy.
A long afternoon looked in store for the latter in the game’s opening throes as the home side made a storming start but, as was to become the story of their match, they couldn’t land a telling blow against Ken Hedley’s spirited charges.
The Canada Life Premier League side carved open their first real chance in the preliminary round tie’s 16th minute when the returning Iain Ramsay dug out a cross from the left to the far post. This was knocked back across the face of goal by Old Boys’ skipper Craig Stewart. Twin brother Callum Stewart looked well-placed to shoot home, but he poked wide under pressure from the recovering Colby defence.
There was a flurry of activity in the Colby box in the run up to half-time. Gandy produced a fine save to tip over Sean Gavin’s rasping half-volley from the edge of the area before Craig Stewart hit the bar when Colby failed to clear the resulting corner.
With chances being spurned at the other end of the pitch, Colby nearly took advantage on a rare sortie into the opposing half, tireless frontman Bobby Kneale forcing a good smothering save from resident number one Sam Holliday.
Holliday’s save and another shot wide by Callum Stewart ensured the two sides turned round goalless as the prospect of a cup shock began to grow.
Old Boys’ continued to press in search of an opener at the start of the second period and former junior island international Gandy showed his mettle with a fine stop to deny Callum Stewart.
With Colby’s defence still holding strong Old Boys’ manager Colin Purvis turned to his bench to try and force a way past the stubborn visiting rearguard that was being well marshalled by Chris McKenna and Adam Fretwell.
The introduction of Gary Quirk, John Quirk and Mark Burman seemed to give the hosts the spark they were missing, the former finally making the breakthrough when he rifled in from the edge of the area with 15 minutes left to play.
The goal visibly relaxed the hosts and they finally began to cut through the tiring southern backline. Craig Stewart hit the bar with a fiercely struck free-kick from 20 yards out after Gandy was penalised for handling outside his area.
John Quirk then put an acrobatic scissor-kick just wide before hitting the bar after lifting an exquisite through-ball over the advancing Gandy.
Burman was the next of the replacements to be denied when his well-struck shot was repelled by the in-form Gandy.
Gandy’s heroics were then spectacularly matched by counterpart Holliday as Colby threatened to get an injury time equaliser that would have sent the tie into extra time.
A deep free-kick was met by a brave diving-header from Danny Kniveton. The winger’s effort looked destined to find the back of the net only for Holliday to produce a fantastic reaction save and tip the ball onto the post.
DHSOB: Sam Holliday, Martin King, Drew Ward, Liam Buckley, Iain Ramsay, Dean France (Gary Quirk 55m), Craig Stewart (c), Robbie Ward, Michael Hooper, Sean Gavin (John Quirk 73m), Callum Stewart (Mark Burman 73m).
Colby: Jay Gandy, Michael Collister, Chris McKenna (c), Kevin Kniveton, Adam Fretwell, Adam Griffiths (Fraser Veale 71m), Jake Kelly (Alex Bulai 61m), Ricky Kniveton, Jack Snidal, Bobby Kneale (Richard Corke 75m), Danny Kniveton.
Referee: Peter Crompton.
Assistants: Peter Halpin and David Murphy.
Man of the Match: Gandy (Colby) - southern shot-stopper had an impressive afternoon between the sticks for the Division Two side
Match rating: HHHHH