Saltire Thistle v VMFC2
14 March 2015
Cup run ends at semi-final hurdle for VMFC
Village Manchester travelled north to Glasgow as they faced Saltire Thistle in the GFSN cup semi-final.
The large group of visiting players and supporters arrived at the venue – the impressive Toryglen Regional Football Centre – an hour before kick off with hopes of reaching their second final in two years.
For the occasion, the club also got to don their new sky blue kit – the first time the club has worn that colour since they were set up – something that made Chairman Bridges a very happy camper!
Manager McPherson and Assistant Toland had a big squad to choose from with 17 players making the trip. They decided to stick with their preferred 4-2-3-1 formation with the squad made up of predominately second team players that are used to the set-up.
Toland took up his position between the posts with Fish, Orrock, McPherson and West defending his goal. Baker and McNaught sat just in front of the back four and Golds, Cookson and Langford helped support the lone striker, Bolgar, up front. Browning, Van-Santi Khan, Nelson and Fairbrother joined Kidd and Holmes on the bench with the latter two on the return from injury.
The game got underway in the cold Scottish wind with Saltire quickly pressing and having a couple of early chances. They hit the woodwork within the first five minutes as their number 4 flicked the ball onto the post and then they missed an even better chance as the same player blazed over when well placed in the box.
After the initial flurry Village weathered the storm and started to put some good play together. McNaught and Baker were working tirelessly in the middle of the pitch against a physical opposition and the attackers started seeing a little bit more of the ball. Saltire did continue to attack however but their attacks were either snuffed out by the defence or their shots never troubled Toland.
With just over 20 minutes gone, Village brought on Holmes and Fairbrother – and it was a move that brought the first goal of the game. After some neat play the ball arrived at the feet of Holmes nearly 30 yards out. The striker spotted the Saltire keeper slightly off his line and launched an expertly weighted shot over the retreating Scot and into the back of the net.
The goal was exactly what the game needed and it was pleasing to see Holmes – making his first appearance since a shocking injury a few months ago – get back on the scoresheet and his smile was shared by many of the travelling party.
With Village ahead in the tie they started to gain more confidence and Bolgar tested the keeper again with a shot from outside the box.
Half time came with Village having the upper hand. 0-1
Standing: Langford, McPherson, Browning, Cookson, Toland, Fish, McNaught, Bolgar
Kneeling: Kidd, Khan, Nelson, Golds, Baker, West, Orrock, Holmes, Fairbrother
The management team commended the players’ first half efforts but stressed that the game was by no means over. Quite a few times this season Village have taken a lead into the half time break only to see their lead disappear in the second 45 minutes. Nelson and Van Khan were brought on to add some new legs into the 11.
Saltire, fired up from their half time team talk, came bursting out of the blocks but again the defence restricted them to pop shots and the one time they did get an attempt on target Toland was equal to it. With 10 minutes of the half gone McPherson made way for Kidd as the oldest player in the squad made his return from injury.
It was on the hour mark that things started going wrong for Village as Saltire finally took one of their chances. A ball into the box was flicked on by a Scottish attacker and found their number 4 with some space in the box. The player kept his calm as he slotted the ball through Toland’s legs for the equaliser.
Things went quickly from bad to worse as Village suddenly found themselves 3-1 down following two quick-fire goals. Toland, rushing out to try and block a ball through, upended a Saltire striker and the ref pointed to the spot. The Scottish number 11 put the spot kick to the keeper’s left and into the back of the net. The number 11 grabbed his second of the game a few minutes later as he struck an unstoppable volley past the Manchester stopper.
To Village’s credit they didn’t let this affect them too much and they struck back immediately. A strong run down the left resulted in a dangerous cross into the six yard box. The ball in was flicked on and Fairbrother was in the right place at the right time to make it 3-2.
With a cup final place at stake, play started to get a bit aggressive and it was this tension that saw both teams have a man sent off in the 72nd minute. Orrock made a strong challenge near the by-line which a couple of Saltire players took exception to. Langford and the Saltire number 4 came together in an altercation that saw both players given their marching orders.
With Village needing a goal to take the tie to extra time, they started to push more and more men forward to get that all important strike. Of course this left them susceptible to counter attacks and it was from one of these with 4 minutes to go that saw the tie put to bed. Village’s corner was cleared and the ball found its way to the feet of the Saltire number 11 on the half way line. The pacey forward raced towards goal with McPherson hot on his heels and starting to close the gap. However, a smart turn and touch wrong footed the Northern Irish defender and the Saltire attacker went down over the defender’s trailing leg inside the box. Again the referee pointed to the spot and again the number 11 made no mistake as he placed the shot inside the post.
Despite this sucker punch Village still believed they could reach the final as they continued to attack. They exerted more and more pressure on a creaking defence and the home side were indebted to their keeper for rushing out and clearing away a smart Village through ball.
On the 90 minute mark Saltire got their fifth and final goal. A ball into the middle found the Saltire number 2 and he cleverly made space for himself and lobbed the ball over Toland to make the game completely safe.
The score line was harsh on Village. The home team, supported by a large crowd, did look really dangerous and did have a lot of chances but it was not until the second half that they finally made these efforts count and the two late goals put a gloss on the result.
The Saltire win means that the GFSN Cup will definitely be going north of the border this season as their opponents in the final will be HotScots – the Edinburgh team seeing off London Falcons in the other semi-final.
After the game both teams made their way to the Underground bar – sponsor of Saltire Thistle. After some gay bingo, Scottish beer and great food it was a quick trip to the hotel to get refreshed and to head back out on to the Glasgow scene. One thing Village has always been good at is having a good time out partying – win or lose – and this was again the case as the club hit Delmonicas and Polo Lounge for shots and shoddy dancing!
The club would like to say thanks to everyone who made the trip (players and supporters) and to James Toland for arranging transport and accommodation.
We would also like to thank Saltire for hosting us and we wish both Saltire and HotScots all the best for the final.
Spot the difference... read Saltire's take on the game here
Check out the first half photos (unfortunately the camera broke down before the second half):