Saints march into final

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ST George’s booked their place in the final of the Ascot Hotel-sponsored Junior Cup after breaking Ramsey’s hearts with a late, late winner from Michael McHale in extra time at Glencrutchery Road on Saturday afternoon.

In an extraordinary game played in wet conditions the hosts, who were reduced to nine men, came from behind three times to force the additional 30 minutes of action before McHale held his nerve to slot home a decisive penalty to send the northerners crashing out.

Buoyed by their excellent victory over holders Peel in the previous round, Ramsey did not take long to make their mark on the contest when they went ahead in spectacular fashion after just five minutes. A corner was only half cleared to Matty Skillicorn on the edge of the area and the forward produced a stunning volley which angled over Geordies goalkeeper Chris Kelly and into the top right corner of the net to give the Ballacloan outfit the perfect start.

The hosts almost mustered up an immediate response just two minutes later but Dan Pennington’s long-range free-kick was drilled narrowly wide. The Saints came even closer to scoring midway through the first half when Kane Ridings was sent clean through with just the keeper to beat but, just when he looked certain to score, defender Matt Sherry made a superb last-ditch tackle to deny the hosts an equaliser. They weren’t to be denied much longer, though, as they levelled in the 25th minute following some great build up play between Ridings and Connor Dempsey which sent the former clean through again and this time he made no mistake, slotting home into the bottom right corner with aplomb to level the scores.

Geordies’ joy was shortlived, however, as the northerners regained the lead shortly afterwards. Another corner was punched clear by Saints shot-stopper Kelly and fell at the feet of Matthew Kelly 30 yards who took a touch before curling a stunning left-footed effort past the stranded Kelly into the net.

Matters got even worse seconds later for the home side when the St George’s goalkeeper was given his marching orders by referee John Lovelady following an altercation with Ramsey’s Jonathan Leece which resulted in Pennington donning the gloves. With their numerical advantage, the visitors twice went close to increasing their lead before the interval when Skillicorn fired wide before Micky Neale flicked an effort just over the bar.

The hosts began the second half in determined fashion and found themselves level when the impressive Ridings burst through the Ramsey defence and fired goalwards. Although Gary Scott was equal to the task, the rebound fell to Ridings’ strike partner Freddie Ward who made no mistake in firing the ball past the stranded goalkeeper and into the back of the unguarded net.

Both sides continued to trade chances as the game wore on, with Ridings in particular looking dangerous, but it was Ramsey who found the breakthrough next, going into the lead for the third time in the game. Yet again a set-piece proved to be the hosts’ downfall as some lax defending allowed the ball to be played to Skillicorn 25 yards and the talismanic forward firing a stinging shot through a crowd of players which stand-in keeper Pennington could only only palm into his own net.

Just when the goal looked set to send Ramsey through to the final, Chris Feeney’s corner low corner was cleared against Geordies defender Robin Bates who inadvertently deflected the ball past Scott and into the back of the net to force extra time.

The first 15 additional minutes passed by without much incident but the game sprung into life once again during the second period when another surging run by Ridings was brought to an abrupt and illegal end after Matt Sherry’s challenge inside the area, prompting Lovelady to immediately point to the spot. Up stepped Saints defender Michael McHale to slot the ball into the bottom right corner of the net past Scott.

The game took yet another twist just two minutes later when Saints defender Andy Bass was shown a second yellow card to reduce the hosts to nine men but it was to be Geordies day as they saw out the remainder to progress to the final.

St George’s: Chris Kelly, Andy Bass, Robin Bates, Michael McHale, Dan Pennington, Nick Bass (Lee Gartland 105m), Stuart Bell-Scott, Chris Feeney, Connor Dempsey (Blane Slattery 78m), Freddie Ward, Kane Ridings, Sub not used: Karl Gartland

Ramsey: Gary Scott, Alan Corlett, Matt Sherry, Paul Callow (Mark Slinger (116m), Matty Kelly, Jamie Arneil, Jonathan Leece, Alex Yates, Matty Skillicorn, Micky Kneale, Liam Parker. Subs not used: Ciaran Quigley and Craig Dalton

Referee: John Lovelady. Assistants: Mark Stevens and Scott Campion

Booked: A. Bass, R. Bates, S. Bell-Scott, N. Bass and K. Ridings (all St George’s) Alex Yates and Matt Sherry (Ramsey)

Sent off: Chris Kelly and Andy Bass (St George’s)

Man of the Match: Ridings (St George’s) - was a constant threat throughpout the match and played a part in three of the goals

Match rating: HHHHH

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