The Hassocks Under 12 Seagulls kept their plate dream alive Sunday, with a nerve shredding penalty shoot-out win over Uckfield Grasshoppers United. The game contained more drama than a Christmas East Enders, an absolutely outrageous goal from Salvador Ganpatsingh, stand out performances from both keepers and a denouement that would have been rejected by Roy of the Rovers editors as being too unbelievable!
Both teams were set up in much the same way â€“ with deep defence and a counter attack on a massive pitch â€“ meaning that a lot of the action was concentrated in the midfield. And the slow start to the game was no indicator of the late drama to follow!
The Seagulls started the better without really troubling the Uckfield Keeper, but then found themselves on the back foot, and were indebted to Jake in goal with a couple of fine stops from a completely unmarked Uckfield striker.
There was a strong finish from the Seagulls though with Cameron Mitchell impressing on the left wing cutting and playing a perfect ball to Kai â€“ but the chance was snuffed out by the excellent Uckfield goalkeeper who was off his line in an instant to deal with the situation.
0-0 at half time then.
Early in the second half the Seagulls took a lead that they just about deserved, a Cameron Mitchell corner fell at the feet of Salvador Ganpatsingh, who could not miss from 5 yards. 1-0 then, and an air of confidence descended â€“ the Seagull last conceded a goal on the 16th of October â€“ could they hold out again?
..Erâ€¦no. The strong left winger for Uckfield was giving Alex Roberts a torrid time at right back â€“ but with Billy Mathur behind him they were managing â€“ but this time two tackles were made, and the ball fell perfectly for him and he finished calmly past Jake Palmer in goal. 3 Hours of football without conceding though â€“ it was bound to happen!
The last 15 minutes were a struggle, but entertaining â€“ and it could have gone either way â€“ Uckfield dominated possession â€“ but could not get the chances â€“ with the Seagulls in their usual â€œthrow themselves in the way of everything and hit them on the breakâ€ were getting some change â€“ especially down the right with Freddie Johnsonâ€“ but the Uckfield goaly was in no mood to let a late goal in â€“ so extra time it was.
A disastrous start to extra time, saw the Seagulls fall behind in a match for the first time since the 9th of October! A number of chances to deal with a ball down the Uckfield right were spurned and a fine effort was curled into the top left hand corner â€“ excellent finish â€“ but a disappointing goal to concede.
Following the goal the guys looked out of the game, and there were other Uckfield chances to put the game to bed â€“ but important saves from Jake, along with some great last ditch tackling from Billy and George Prosser kept the Seagulls in it.
Against the run of play though the Seagulls were back in it. A rare foray forward ended in a corner â€“ and a perfectly flighted ball in found Salvador â€“ but he had his back to goal. Ermâ€¦..so what â€“ he just jumped in the air and hit a back heel volley that slipped under the keeper. Seriously â€“ a jumping back heel volley goal â€“ have never seen one in professional football never mind a kidâ€™s game â€“ it was totally outrageous and will be officially named a â€œSalvyâ€ from now on. Pandemonium on the pitch as the guys rushed Salvador to celebrate. A period of domination followed â€“ but again the Uckfield keeper stood firm.
The second period of extra time passed in a blur â€“ it was end to end at times â€“ with Uckfield edging it, despite Hassocks having the advantage in numbers of subs. Then, with five minutes left Hassocks were given a gift wrapped chance to win the tie. Salvador was upended in the area and the ref pointed to the spot. Salvy stepped up â€“ but a cracking save high and wide by the Uckfield keeper meant it was not to be.
In the end, it was impossible to separate the sidesâ€“ and 2-2 was probably a fair result.
However â€“ today was the plate and a winner was needed. So the scourge of English footballers â€“ a Penalty shootout.
Not the highest quality shootout I have ever witnessed. Only 3 Penalties scored. But both goalkeepers deserve a lot of credit for holding their nerve. Salvador scored this time, And Ryan Martin and Cameron Mitchell both hit the target but were saved â€“ with Poor Keegan slipping aâ€™ laâ€™ John Terry â€“ but only one Grasshopper had scored as well â€“ so 1-1 with 2 penalties to come.
Up stepped Kai and hit the best pen of the shootout, low, hard and in the bottom right hand corner. 2-1 Seagulls â€“ one pen to come. Up stepped the Uckfield keeper.
The two best players on the pitch in the game facing off with the match on the line â€“ and it looked a proper David and Goliath â€“ with the Uckfield keeper, a good foot bigger than Jake lining up what I was assuming would be an absolute rocket. You could have heard a pin drop!
A decent pen, a better dive to the right and a brilliant save from Jake â€“ I thought I had seen pandemonium earlier when Salvy scored but this was a different kind of pandemonium all together with Jake engulfed by jubilant Seagulls.
A cracking end to a really good close game against well matched opposition whom I really hope we come across again. Their keeper was understandably upset â€“ and I was very proud of the guys extracting themselves from their melee to offer their commiserations and remind him of how good he had been in the match.
The Seagulls â€œrewardâ€ then â€“ a home semi-final against Haywards Heath the week before Christmas. That would be Haywards Heath, formally Mid Sussex Blues who beat us by a cricket score in this competition last season. This Seagulls side is a different side though â€“ and it will be a team determined to give a good account of themselves on what will be an exciting day!
The Seagulls today â€“ Jake Palmer, Dylan Welleck, Bill Mathur, Ben Talbot, Kai Wright, Keegan Croydon-Elkins, Salvador Ganpatsingh, Cameron Mitchell, Ryan Martin, Alex Roberts, Liam Catchpole, Blake Christensen, George Prosser, Freddie Johnson. I am conscious there are not many individual mentions in the report â€“ and this is credit to the guys and their willingness to work as a team, fight for each other and just not be beaten!!