Saturday 5th October Rovers took on West Byfleet
Following last weeks rather attritional 0-0 League Game the Rovers and support were looking forward to the opening cup game of the season at the home of the Scorpions. Familiar foes, the scorpions were well remembered by the team following two games in the previous season - a narrow home defeat and a rather chastening away defeat with no little controversy. Would we see more controversy at the home of the Scorpions?
Scorpions were promoted to the league above last season and everyone expected a testing match. Following a tasty slice or two of Gemma’s fabulous sausage rolls and a 25 minute delay to kick off with an enforced late change of ref, the boys were ready to go.
Winning the toss Finch elected to take the game to the Scorpions on a sloping pitch. Would they regret that decision in the 2nd half with tiring legs and a real-life uphill struggle?
An adventurous start found Jake Mo unmarked in the box some eight yards out. Surely a goal? No he blazes over. Would we regret such profligacy? No - Scorpions just couldn’t get hold of the ball as some cultured play from Ollie at the back fed Sam F , exchanging passes with new signing Adam and Jake Mo who deceived the Scorpions defence to find Bunny in the box on the right hand side. This time the ice cold finish was applied and 5 mins in Finch lead! 0-1.
Impressive further play from Lucas S, Josh and the ever running Nathaniel created good moments before Scorpions started using their pace with in particular their 9 and 15 stretching play down the wings.
After 10 mins a cross from the left came to Ollie but his touch allowed the ball to bounce up and touch his arm. Penalty! Slightly harsh perhaps. In the continued absence of our regular keeper George was in goal following his deserved man of the match performance of the previous week.
George dives to his left pushing the ball away , the ball bouncing away to a Scorpions player to the left. A great strike across goal and the net ripples 1-1. But what’s this? Linesman flag is up for what we are later advised was encroachment in the box. Ref checks with the linesman but awards the goal. Very unfortunate but the refs decision is respected.
Back to the action and some more impressive play with tackles flying in from the midfield and the ever dependable big Sam T. Again some incisive play and Jake Mo this time gets Nathaniel away. They simply cannot live with his pace and determination and he bulldozers through to smash in a 2nd for Finch some 15 minutes in. Come on boys!
We then witnessed some real team work with the defence and midfield working out that Ollie and Sam T would switch centre back positions to cover Josh at right back with Scorpions 9 creating dangerous opportunities. Scorpions fans encouragement to “skin him” were met with one audacious piece of skill that saw 9 break into space. Sam T though is no slouch. A perfectly timed tackle saw Sam go to ground in the box to the delight of Finch supporters and clear the ball to the rather relieved midfield.
Finch regained control and were perhaps unfortunate not to score a 3rd moments before half time with a well worked corner that saw a couple of scuffed half chances just about cleared by the Scorpions.
Shortly after the half time whistle blows and time for a quick rest, some fresh legs and no doubt further praise from what must have been a delighted coach in mr Cutler! Half time 1-2.
The 2nd half begins with some typically hard work from Jake mac with support from Alfie and Leo. Great effort lads! Some wonderful skill from Josh then took him past two players and a good ball forward but just over hit.
Then a clear turning point. Scorpions played a ball out to the right and The ever dependable and impartial Lino Steve raises his flag. Finch stop but play continues and the Scorpion winger runs through to finish expertly past George. Flag remains up and the referee decides to over rule. 2-2.
What felt like an injustice was then to be followed up a few minutes later with a good cross from the left from Scorpions which a stretching George could only parry straight to a scorpion forward and the boys were 3-2 down.
A shot from Finch clearly then hit an outstretched scorpion hand inside the box. Penalty surely given the previous ruling. Not given.
To recap - the boys faced assumed injustices, were up against a team from a higher league and were physically tiring, facing a literal uphill battle and were trailing with half an hour left.
What followed was everything the coaches could possible hope for. Courage in adversity and strength of character to a man.
Some strong challenges from Adam and Ollie and some dogged play from Lucas S and Jake Mac (as ever!) lead to a ball played up to Jake Mo in an advanced position some five yards inside the opposition half with his back to goal. Flicking the ball up , he intelligently headed the ball into the space in front and turned the defender leaving him trailing in his wake. Noticing the keeper had advanced he took the ball forward and nonchalantly chipped the ball over the keeper and the ball dropped a foot under the crossbar. Great goal and the team and supporters broke into rapturous applause. 3-3.
The last 20 minutes were then an emotional roller coaster. Not two minutes after the equaliser Nathaniel smashed in his second after good work from Bunny to the utter astonishment of the Finch support. 3-4.
Scorpions could not believe what they were witnessing but to their credit were matching Finch for effort and skill. Some perhaps unwise passing from the back on a tricky surface provided their 9 with the ball 25 yards out and he unleashed the strike of the day to score to the top left corner. 4-4.
An injured Nathaniel and tired Adam were then off the pitch for a while whilst everyone held their breath. Surely not penalties. Despite their absence Leo in particularly should be applauded for some effective play upfront with non stop hassling of the Scorpions defence.
Nathaniel was to return though. And what a return. A free kick from Sam T some 10 yards into his own half was floated up to the edge of the box. Controlled by Jake Mo and a quick pass into Nathaniel who thundered the ball into the top left corner. Hat trick! 4-5.
The final few mins were agony. Scorpions manfully attacked and perhaps should have scored with a header at the far post following a well executed free kick. The excellent Sam F then almost made it six with a well struck shot rising just over the bar with the keeper beaten.
The final whistle was greeted with exhaustion, relief and pure joy. And that was just the coach! Congratulations must go to every player who gave their all in a thrilling cup win! Bring on the next round....