Ayre hit back to clinch FA Cup

Saturday 23rd April 2022 8:00 am
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Ayre United captain Jamie Callister triumphantly hoists the FA Cup aloft as the celebrations begin following the Tangerines’ hard-fought win over Laxey in the final (Photo: Gary Weightman)

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Ayre United clinched the FA Cup for the second time in the club’s history with a high-scoring win over Laxey on Good Friday.

The Tangerines were favourites to lift the ECAP-sponsored trophy and add to the Railway Cup won earlier in the season, but they were forced to come from behind against a brave and resilient Laxey outfit.

Indeed, the Miners raced into a 3-1 lead courtesy of a brace from Michael Fernandes plus a Brody Patience strike as Johnny Palmer’s charges threatened to pull off an upset at the Bowl.

But a quickfire double before half-time followed by another strike inside the opening minute of the second half turned the game on its head in favour of the northerners who then went to claim a 5-3 win.

Declan Cummins helped himself to a brace for the Tangerines while Harry Best headed home another, but the two decisive strikes were unfortunate own goals by Laxey which firmly swung the momentum in Ayre’s favour.

Laxey had booked their place in the FA Cup final thanks to a dramatic 3-2 win over DHSOB after extra-time at Glen Road, while Ayre had brushed aside holders Corinthians 4-0 in Andreas.

Despite being underdogs to disrupt Ayre’s quest for a league and cup quadruple, Laxey flew out of the traps at the national stadium and took the lead with less than six minutes on the clock when Fernandes charged into the box and was brought down by Ayre goalkeeper Nick White.

Patience took responsibility from 12 yards out and, despite White saving his penalty, the Laxey man was quickest to react as he slammed home the rebound to put his side 1-0 up.

That lead only lasted a matter of minutes though as Ayre responded in the 10th minute. So often over the years Shaun Kelly has hurt teams with his long throw-ins and it was another one of his trademark monster throws that allowed Harry Best to nod home the equaliser.

Unperturbed by that riposte, Laxey went on the frontfoot again and it wasn’t long before they edged ahead when Fernandes burst clear of the northern defence before coolly firing past White to restore the Miners’ lead.

The goalscorer then very nearly turned provider when his cutback found Harry Walters whose curling effort was almost spilled over the line by White.

But there was to be no denying the Glen Road side a third when Fernandes latched onto a long ball and cut inside a defender before wrongfooting the keeper with an early snapshot into the bottom left corner to leave the Laxey fans in dreamland.

Gradually, Ayre regained their composure after that double blow and were rewarded in the 36th minute when they dragged themselves back into the contest.

Man of the match Johnny Shields swung in a dangerous corner which forced Laxey keeper Rob Slinger to claw the ball out from underneath his crossbar, but his clearance landed at the feet of Declan Cummins on the edge of the box who fired a low shot through a crowded area into the net.

Buoyed by that goal, Ayre pushed for another equaliser and grabbed it on the stroke of half-time, albeit in somewhat comical circumstances.

There seemed little danger when another long throw-in from Kelly was headed away from the six-yard box but the next clearance was sliced straight back into the mixer by a Laxey player which caused chaos.

As players challenged for the ball inside the six-yard area, Aiden Cummins flicked it goalwards where his brother Declan was on hand to poke home and make it 3-3.

Despite the interval, Laxey still appeared to be reeling from that leveller when the second half kicked off as Ayre turned the game on its head with a fourth goal in the opening seconds of the half.

After yet another Kelly throw-in was put behind for a corner, Shields swung the resulting set piece into the danger zone where Laxey defender Tom Cowin unfortunately diverted the ball towards his own goal.

Slinger reacted quickly to seemingly palm the header clear but, much to Laxey’s anger, the assistant referee deemed that the ball had crossed the line and the goal was given, putting Ayre in front for the first time during the final.

With the Miners reeling, the Tangerines searched for another goal and nearly found it Harry Weatherill tried his luck with a powerful drive from 20 yards out which was brilliantly repelled by Slinger,

But there was nothing the latter could do to prevent the northerners making it 5-3 moments later when Best surged into the box and crossed to Shields who fired goalwards. Slinger did well to save his effort but could only watch as Max Shirley inadvertently sliced his follow-up clearance into his own net.

A raft of substitutions disrupted the game and stymied any Laxey hopes of getting back into the game, even more so when Fernandes was sinbinned with a little over 15 minutes remaining.

But Palmer’s men went close to reducing the deficit when Matty Wilkinson crossed to fellow sub Joe Walters whose shot from point-blank range was superbly saved by White in the Ayre goal.

Wilkinson was then perhaps lucky to escape a red card when he scythed down Best, while Laxey’s appeals for a penalty for handball fell on deaf ears as referee John McCallum waved play on.

At the other end of the pitch, Ayre sub Phil Dunnigan nearly made an instant impact when he raced clean through on goal and got the better of Slinger, but Wilkinson was on hand to clear the danger off the line.

It proved to be a short-lived cameo for Dunnigan as he was shown two yellow cards in quick succession in injury time as Ayre were reduced to 10 men.

But any faint glimmer of hope for a miracle Laxey comeback was repelled in the dying seconds when the Miners broke down the right through Walters who crossed to Fernandes inside the area.

The Laxey number eight looked destined to complete his hat-trick and set up a nervy finale but somehow White flung himself across goal to acrobatically claw the ball away with a save of the season contender.

And that proved to be the last action of note as McCallum’s whistle soon sounded for full-time to ensure the FA Cup would take its place in Ayre United’s burgeoning trophy cabinet.

With the Tangerines well placed to win a maiden Premier League title and the Hospital Cup still to come, more silverware could be headed to Andreas in the near future.

DAVE NORTON

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