Malew spot on against Saints in Woods Cup final

Monday 25th April 2022 6:00 am
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Malew players celebrate winning the GH Corlett Woods Cup with a penalty shootout victory over St John’s on Easter Monday (Photo: Paul Hatton)

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Malew clinched the 2022 GH Corlett Woods Cup in dramatic fashion at the Bowl on Easter Monday.

The southerners held their nerve to triumph in a penalty shoot-out after a final packed with drama right up to the final seconds.

St John’s went into the showpiece event as favourites and nearly grabbed the lead as early as the third minute when Leo Tregurtha’s long-range shot was tipped onto the post by Malew goalkeeper Ste Collister.

But the Saints fell behind soon after when Malew were awarded a penalty after goalkeeper Neal Thomas fouled an attacker when attempting to block a rebound. Up stepped eventual man of the match Jamie Skillen to calmly convert the opening goal after only eight minutes.

In a half of few clear cut chances, the southerners went close to doubling their advantage when Joe Bergquist stung Thomas’s palms with a powerful effort, before Skillen and Dorin Tatar combined to set up Bergquist who fizzed a low shot just wide of the post.

It remained 1-0 until the second half but the Saints hit back after 53 minutes when the impressive Dean Leece beat the Malew offside trap and rounded Thomas to slot home the equaliser.

The same player very nearly completed a quickfire turnaround when he appeared destined to score again following a neat interchange of play, but Collister reacted brilliantly to thwart the danger.

With momentum firmly in their favour, St John’s turned the screw and twice went close again when Sam Ingham’s header was blocked before Andrew Chadwick’s follow-up shot was repelled.

Gradually though, Malew regrouped and then edged in front again in the 69th minute when a corner was not dealt with properly and, after Daniel Thirlwell’s initial effort had been blocked by Ingham, Ash Egan’s follow-up was blocked by the same player and referee Stuart Morris spotted a handball.

Once again, Skillen took responsibility and fired home from 12 yards to restore his side’s lead.

And the southerners seemingly had one hand on the trophy when they netted again only four minutes later to take control of the tie.

There seemed little danger when the Saints keeper threw the ball downfield, but Bergquist intercepted and sent it back towards the danger zone where Skillen seized on a missed defensive header and chipped a stranded Thomas to make it 3-1.

That’s how it remained for the next 14 minutes as Malew appeared on course to see out the rest of the game and clinch the trophy.

But St John’s had other ideas as they turned the match on its head in the final few minutes.

Receiving the ball in the full-back position, Ray Lovell launched a long pass over the top of the Malew defence to Leece who beat the offside trap and calmly rounded Collister before slotting into the empty net.

And, in remarkably similar fashion, the Saints stunned the Clagh Vane outfit in injury-time when Ingham lofted a ball behind the southerners’ backline where Penhallurick raced in unopposed and curled a shot beyond Collister into the net to spark delirious scenes amongst the St John’s faithful.

To make matters worse for Malew, they were reduced to 10 men seconds later when Kieran Krypner was shown a straight red after lashing out at an opponent.

This prompted a switch for the southerners in extra-time, with Collister making way and being replaced in goal by Dean Kinley.

The substitution proved to be a masterstroke as Kinley produced a superb save to deny a goal-bound header from Harry Rothwell as St John’s attempted to make the most of their numerical advantage.

Penhallurick and Leece both went close to putting the Saints in front, but then Malew delivered what appeared to be the decisive blow when Bergquist tried his luck from long range and smashed a powerful shot which swerved wickedly through the air and deceived Thomas before nestling into the back of the net.

The Saints’ misery was compounded in the 120th minute when full-back Lewis Daly was sent off for illegally thwarting a Malew counter-attack, but any thoughts of the drama being over were misplaced.

With only seconds of extra-time remaining, Tregurtha played another long ball over the Malew defence and, despite appeals for offside, Rothwell raced clear before unselfishly squaring to Penhallurick who swept into an unguarded net to send the St John’s faithful into dreamland and ensure the final would be decided on penalties.

After more than two hours of football the teams showed good composure in the lottery of the shootout, with the sides deadlocked at 4-4 heading into the final round of spot-kicks.

In a cruel twist of fate, the Saints’ two-time hero Penhallurick was the first player to miss as his effort was superbly repelled by Kinley, allowing Malew skipper Craig Cowin to slot home the decisive penalty and ensure the Woods Cup headed back to Clagh Vane for the first time since the 1966-67 season.

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