VMFC v HotScots
Saturday 22 February 2014
Village Manchester are through the final of the GFSN Cup following a 2-1 win over HotScots.
The club reached the final thanks to two expertly taken strikes from Jordan Langford in a tense and close game at Albert Park in Salford.
Village were able to select a strong club team as they fought to reach the final of the national cup for the first time since 2008.
The defence had a familiar look to it as Stevens and Hardern occupied the full back positions either side of McPherson and Edwards as they aimed to protect Baker’s goal. Panos and Jordan took their place on the wings with Feis-Bryce, Connell and Clayton providing the solidity and creativity in the middle whilst supporting lone striker Holmes. With the competition allowing roll on-roll off subs the four men on the bench - Storey, Aleixo, McNaught and Kirkham – would be able to get a lot of game time too.
The match got off to a fantastic start for Village as they went 1-0 up within the first couple of minutes. A careless tackle following a determined run by Holmes earned Village a free kick 20 yards out in a central position. Langford, who already had 17 club goals to his name this season, made no mistake as his carefully taken free kick had too much power on it for the keeper to keep out.
With a lead quickly established it meant that Village would have the opportunity to set the pace of the game to their liking. However, players seemed to be rushing their passes or looking for the killer ball too often and play soon broke down as an organised HotScots were proving to be hard to breach. McPherson almost extended the lead from a corner but he reacted too late to Langford’s corner as his diving header at the back post didn’t have enough purchase on it to trouble the goal.
And it wasn’t too long until the visitors from Edinburgh brought parity to the scoreline as they scored from their own set piece. A corner was needlessly conceded on Village’s right and a HotScots player bravely stooped to flick the ball on towards goal before Panos was able to clear. The header had just too much on it for Village and, despite Feis-Bryce’s effort to clear it off the line, the ball found its way into the back of the net.
The goal gave the HotScots a bit of belief but Village managed to stand up tall and repel a number of attacks. The pressure from HotScots did result in Village conceding a few more corners but Baker used his athleticism and voice to intercept and collect any balls in or around the six yard box.
Manager Hall made a few changes as Storey and McNaught came on and their experience brought a sense of calm back to Village and they were able to ensure the opposition couldn’t build any further momentum.
Half time: VMFC 1-1 HotScots
Manager Hall used the half time team talk to highlight some positional issues, stressing the importance of maintaining shape, not leaving empty space and encouraged the team to play the ball more on the ground.
The second half saw the introduction of Aleixo and Kirkham and both players were able to use their freshness to pose a few more questions for the Scottish opponents with Kirkham’s off the ball movement and control and Aleixo’s determined challenges proving effective.
Both teams had chances to take the lead and once each team’s attackers had managed to break through the defence they found each keeper in inspired form. HotScots especially gave the watching supporters a fright as they forced Baker into an acrobatic save from distance after breaking free.
Baker was also called upon to hold on to HotScots’ shots from outside the box and he was quick to come off his line to smother any balls over the top.
At the other end, Hardern went close as he shot narrowly over from a corner generated by one his numerous overlapping runs. His canny link up play with Clayton proved a constant menace down the left and the ground he covered going back left no room for the opposition to get in behind him.
As the game wore on, it was Village who looked the more dangerous as they managed to find the passing game that had eluded them for much of the game. They managed to exert more and more pressure and the HotScots rear-guard was creaking under the pressure.
However, with five minutes remaining, the game was still level and extra-time and penalties seemed to be on the horizon. Then everything changed as the ball fell to Langford on the edge of the box. The attacker smashed the ball towards goal with the ball taking a couple of nicks on the way through. The keeper again got his hand to the ball but was unable to keep the ball out and Village were 2-1 up with minutes to go.
The goal saw the Village supporters, who turned out in impressive numbers, go crazy and the euphoria and importance of the goal became apparent.
With a few minutes to go Village had to be careful to not let their hard work in the second half go to waste and the defence and midfield made sure that they made no silly mistakes. As Baker picked another ball in from HotScots out of the air, the referee blew his whistle and Village could breathe easy knowing that they were in the final.
It was a hard fought game with the HotScots pushing Village close – but a victory for the home side was the right result following a great team effort. Special mention has to go to Holmes as his work rate up front was tireless and to McNaught and Connell as their energy levels and dominance in midfield ensured that the attack had a good platform to build upon. With Aleixo’s tackling and grit adding to the solidity provided by Storey, McPherson and Edwards the whole squad can be proud of their effort.
The club will face London Romans in the final in May following their 3-2 victory over Saltire Thistle in the other semi-final.
Full time: VMFC 2-1 Hotscots