Peel ‘Pack’ a punch in Junior Cup final

Thursday 2nd June 2022 8:00 am
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Peel AFC players and coaches celebrate winning the Ascot Hotel Junior Cup after a dramatic 3-2 win against Corinthians after extra-time at the Bowl last week (Photo: Gary Weightman)

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Peel AFC clinched the Ascot Hotel Junior Cup for the 13th time in dramatic fashion at the Bowl on Wednesday evening.

The westerners lifted the silverware after two hours of action at the national stadium against Corinthians, triumphing 3-2.

But the Sunset City side were indebted to a 120th-minute penalty save from young goalkeeper Ryan Tate who enjoyed a rollercoaster night.

Neither side had won the combination cup since the two teams met in the 2014-15 final when Peel triumphed 1-0 thanks to Dan Corkill’s early strike.

The westerners arguably went into the latest meeting as favourites to triumph having finished second in the Canada Life Combination One league table, some five places and 32 points better off than the Whites in seventh place.

But the Ballafletcher side belied their underdog status with a positive start, going close as early as the fifth minute when Ryan Hughes sent a header over the bar, before Middleton hit the woodwork with a cross.

The first chance of note to arrive for Peel came in the 11th minute when Ethan Herbert burst forward and curled an effort narrowly wide, then Alec Ecalongo also hit the woodwork.

As the westerners grew into the game, they went close again when Ecalongo had an effort cleared off the line by Hughes.

At the other end of the pitch, Nigel Moody was denied the breakthrough when his smart turn and shot inside the area saw his effort being deflected inches over the bar.

Peel’s good spell was rewarded when Douglas Road side edged ahead just after the half-hour mark when Harry Pack found the back of the net to the delight of the travelling Peel faithful.

But it wasn’t long before one of the game’s main talking points arrived when Corinthians equalised just before half-time in controversial circumstances.

Seizing on a wayward defensive header, Joe Middleton burst into the box and was brought down inside the area by Tate who was then given his marching orders by referee Ollie Johnson, only for the official to reduce it to a yellow card on the advice of assistant Dan Foley.

Still on the pitch, Tate then produced a superb save to keep out Moody’s resultant spotkick, but he was adjudged to have encroached off his line and a retake was ordered, much to the anger of Peel.

Moody calmly slotted home at the second attempt to make it 1-1 and leave the match all square at half-time.

The Ballafletcher side nearly completed the turnaround shortly after the interval when Conor Bell’s inswinging corner evaded everyone but crashed back off the inside of the post before Peel hacked the ball clear.

And it wasn’t long before Corinthians were made to pay for that miss when Peel retook the lead early in the second half when Pack burst down the left wing and cut inside before crossing to Alex Ecolango who turned the ball past Corinthians keeper Jack Corran to make it 2-1.

But the Whites levelled again in the 64th minute when, moments after Billy Kennaugh had gone close at one end, Corinthians counter-attacked and Middleton stole in behind the Peel defence before deftly chipping the ball over Tate to make it 2-2

The two teams traded chances for the remainder of normal time but there were no further goals within the regulation 90 minutes, therefore the final proceeded to 30 minutes of extra-time.

Like Tate, Corinthians keeper Corran had enjoyed a fine game and he had to be at his very best early in the first half of extra-time when he produced a wonder save to prevent Pack scoring again.

At the other end, Middleton twice went close to giving his side the lead for the first time but he was denied by Tate, the second with a brilliant fingertip save when a goal looked certain.

Just before the interval, Peel nearly retook the lead when Pack saw another effort saved by Corran, before Conylt Dillon curled a fine left-footed effort onto the roof of the net from long range.

As the second half of extra-time edged towards penalties, Peel legend Rob Cottier had a header disallowed, but there was to be no denying the westerners five minutes from time as they netted the decisive goal.

Ecalongo embarked on a superb mazy run through the Corinthians defence on the left wing before pulling the ball back to Pack who side footed home his second of the evening to spark a mini pitch invasion from the Peel faithful.

The drama wasn’t over there though, as Cottier conceded a penalty in the dying seconds of extra-time to hand Corinthians a lifeline.

Remarkably though, Middleton’s spotkick was pushed away by Tate to spark delirious scenes as the full-time whistle sounded moments later to ensure Peel’s name will once again be etched onto the Junior Cup.

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