The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory. Cables certainly had to do things the hard way as they reached their fourth Liverpool Senior Cup final in a row last night following a penalty shoot-out victory over Widnes FC.
With the score tied at 2-2 after 90 minutes, it was goalkeeper Ben Barnes, diving low and to his right hand side to save Harry Brazel’s penalty, who ensured Cables would go on to meet Southport in the Final next month.
The first half saw Cables take the lead in the 28th minute with a moment of pure quality from Chris Almond.
Matthew Hamilton’s dummy allowed Almond to receive the ball with his back to goal 25 yards out. He was able to turn, look up and lift the ball beautifully over the Widnes ‘keeper into the net to give Cables a 1-0 lead at half time.
The second half saw Cables’ intensity drop, allowing Widnes back into the game. The visitors were level on 55 minutes when an innocuous shot from distance by forward Ben Hodkinson seemed to bobble on the uneven surface past Ben Barnes to make it 1-1.
One-all quickly became two-one to the visitors. Sensing defensive vulnerability, Widnes’ pacey attackers piled forward and were awarded a free-kick on 58 minutes after a foul by Cables’ skipper on the night, Aaron Turner. The resulting free kick saw things go from bad to worse for Turner as he headed the ball past Barnes into his own net.
Anyone who thought that Cables would capitulate from this point clearly doesn’t know what this competition means to this team. This group of players are back-to-back holders of this competition for a reason, and they weren’t prepared to give up their reign so easily. A free kick on 66 minutes was brilliantly held up at the back post by Louis Coyne who would cross the ball back into the six-yard area. The ball came to Matthew Hamilton whose scuffed shot was hooked in acrobatically by Almond for his second goal of the evening. Parity resorted, and relief all round for the hosts.
The visitors nearly snatched the win right at the death after another defensive mix-up. With nerves clearly starting to show, Barnes and his back line could only watch as a Widnes shot trickled past an open Cables goal.
And so, to penalties. The North West Roadshow End was packed with partisan Prescot fans as they witnessed the first two Widnes spot-kicks missed, and the first three Cables penalties scored to give the home side a 3-0 lead. Despite Lloyd Dean seeing his spot kick saved, it was Barnes who became the hero of the hour when he read Brazel’s penalty and got a hand low down to his right to produce a magnificent save and see Cables through to the final.
Three in a row? Its on!
Cables XI: Barnes, Fernandes, McNally, McCulloch, Coyne, Turner (Dean 63), Griffiths, Faux, Almond, (Klein-Davies 67), Wynne, Hamilton (Fishwick 78).
The Roanza Truck & Van Man of the Match was selected by manager Brian Richardson, with the award going to James McCulloch for a solid defensive performance.
Report by Richard Tigwell