This week saw the clash of two top Year 11 football teams, both vying for a place in the quarter finals of the County Cup. Emmanuel College versus Durham Johnston was always going to be a fiercely fought, high power game, but no one anticipated quite how dramatic it would be … right up until the last minute!
The game started with the same outfield 11 who had played the previous round away at Monkwearmouth Academy in October, where the boys triumphed 4-2. This match promised to be a tougher task: away at Durham Johnston (DJ), a side containing three or four players at academies in the North East.
The beginning of the match was cagey, almost like two boxers trying to work each other out in the early rounds. After around 18 minutes, Eddie Allan did what he does best with a bulldozing run through the opposition defence and finishing the attack off with a cool finish into the bottom corner.
Emmanuel had grown into the game and were on top now, missing two or three chances to double their lead, including a wonderfully struck shot from Devrim Celikay, who had beaten the keeper, but was only denied by the crossbar.
Not long later, we were punished for not taking our chances, and the opposition levelled with a free header from a corner at the back post. A cheap goal to concede considering the work we had put into the game so far, but that was nothing compared with what was to come next! Soon after the equaliser from DJ, another battling run from Eddie Allan won the side a penalty after he was wiped out by the on-rushing Durham Johnston defender. Captain Lewis Bullock, who had converted a penalty superbly in the last round, stepped up to take it, and unfortunately flashed the penalty over the top of the crossbar. Lewis showed great character, however, to not let his head drop, and he had an otherwise outstanding game with defensive partner, Liam Jackson, keeping a tricky DJ centre forward at bay.
At half-time the score was 1-1. We had a little chat and talked about how well we were controlling the game but for the scoreline, and all we needed was to take our next chance.
Not long after the break, we were ahead again; a fantastic cross-field switch to Matthew Grant forced the opposition goalkeeper to panic and come rushing out, and Matthew coolly lifted the ball over the goalkeeper and, as the defenders charged back to try and clear the ball off the line, Eddie was there again to make sure the ball was converted.
Emmanuel were in complete control and dominating proceedings. But we did not take advantage of our opportunities to finish the game off, and then the referee gave the opposition a penalty for handball against Devrim, despite him being pushed in the back by an attacker towards the ball. The penalty was converted and, moments later, from being comfortable at 2-1, DJ scored again and we were 3-2 down! The lads and coach Mr Thomson were bemused to say the least as to how the game had slipped from their grasp, but the determination and grit of the students was clear to see: they were not going to let any controversy of the opposition’s equaliser be the reason of their exit from the county cup.
Temitope Sowunmi and Ayaan Din entered the field of play as substitutes, and both made an immediately positive impact. Not long after their entrance, we were awarded another penalty of our own, and Matthew Grant stepped up and coolly levelled the scorelines again. Momentum was with us and we were banging on the Durham Johnston door, with various opportunities to go back in front. And then, at what seemed at the time like the decisive moment, Temitope won a free kick on the edge of the box, and Matthew Grant stepped up behind the ball and lashed it into the top corner. Cue total pandemonium – all 16 of the Emmanuel footballers, plus the 16 rugby players who had just finished their match, piled into the corner to celebrate … some of the most joyous celebrations I have seen!
With five minutes left, it seemed the game was won. However, this game had not drawn its final moment of drama just yet. In fact, it had only just begun. With pretty much the last kick of the game, Durham Johnston equalised, and penalties were in order to decide the winner. The opposition won the toss and elected to go second.
Penalty 1 EC: Devrim Celikay volunteers to go first and converts comfortably.
Penalty 1 DJ: Zach Halliwell makes a dive down to his left and saves the penalty.
Penalty 2 EC: Eddie Allan scores to make it 2-0 Emmanuel.
Penalty 2 DJ: Zach guesses the right way again, but the ball goes in off the post.
Penalty 3 EC: Liam Jackson lashes the ball into the back of the net.
Penalty 3 DJ: The only time Zach doesnt go the right way. 3-2.
Penalty 4 EC: Matthew Grant again converts from the spot, wrong footing the Goalie.
Penalty 4 DJ: Zach Halliwell writes his name into Emmanuel College folklore as he dives down to his left and denies the DJ player.
Emmanuel wins 4-2 on penalties and progresses to the Quarter Finals! Unbelievable efforts from the lads to come back from so many setbacks in the game and still go through. Well done lads!