On a balmy Autumn afternoon, Ramblers 1st eleven faced familiar foes Port Sunlight in a Garrison Cup fixture that they needed to win, having fallen to a shock defeat to Shotton Steel the previous week.
In a game against traditionally their toughest Garrison Cup opposition, the Ramblers were not helped by the number of players missing due to injury and other commitments. The bat signal went up on Friday afternoon, to be answered by two Ramblers very much at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Veteran centre forward Steve Lewis came into the side, providing a physical presence that might have been missed with Holt injured. Ollie Sykes also stepped up, having impressed in Cambridge, to replace the energy typically provided by the absent Gendall.
The Ramblers did not get off to an ideal start. Port Sunlight retained possession well from kick off and launched an attack down the left hand side. A dangerous cross was headed away to apparent safety by Duffy, but the oncoming central midfielder struck a volley with his left foot that found the top corner of Phipps’ net from 25 yards. There was very little that the Ramblers could have done differently, sometimes you’ve just got to hold your hands up and applaud the strike.
Having been turned over the week before, it would have been easy for the Ramblers to fold, but they were galvanised and quickly drew level. A corner from the right found the head of Lewis at the front post, who flicked the ball across the face of goal to the back post where Doherty waited. If it were a lesser player, his Ramblers teammates might have thought that the deflection off Doherty’s knee back across goal was simply a bad touch. Rest assured, the on field skipper had seen the run of centre half partner Duffy and laid it on a plate for him to pounce from 6 yards. 1-1 after 10 minutes.
The Ramblers continued to pile on the pressure. Sunlight had a couple of lucky escapes, with the ball being cleared off the line on two occasions, but their luck ran out after around 25 minutes. Lewis, rolling back the years, took the ball into feet on the edge of the box, with the centre half tight to him. In time honoured fashion, Lewis rolled him before smashing the ball left footed into the roof of the net.
The Ramblers continued to dominate, playing some very good football with White and Bradshaw in particular causing the Sunlight defence problems out wide. Shields was a constant menace, with runs into the channels and was unfortunate not to get onto the scoresheet.
However, with the first half drawing to a close, Sunlight had a rare attack and got a lucky break when their centre forward went down in between Duffy and Doherty, with very little contact, To everybody’s amazement, including the Sunlight players, the referee blew for a penalty which was subsequently dispatched past Phipps, who through no fault of his own had touched the ball twice in the first half, both to pick the ball out of his net.
With the score 2-2 at half time, the Ramblers could easily have been demoralised at being level in a game they had dominated. In fact, they came out in the second half determined to put things right and within five minutes, they had scored twice. The first came from a long throw, falling kindly to Blease who prodded home from 6 yards. If Blease’s first was relatively straightforward, his second showed the skill which will be sorely missed during his sabbatical in Australia. He beat a number of Sunlight defenders before coolly slotting home with his left foot to put Ramblers in control at 4-2.
Sunlight responded almost immediately. In a continuation of the first half theme of Sunlight goals from nowhere, their left footed central midfielder (he of the first half volley) found the top corner from even further out to make it 4-3 with 35 minutes remaining.
Port Sunlight tails were up and Ramblers had to dig in for a fifteen minute spell of Sunlight dominance. Egan in particular was pressed into some impressive last ditch defending to maintain the Ramblers advantage. The midfield three of Whittingham, Sykes and Blease covered every blade of grass to ensure that Sunlight were restricted to relatively few chances, particularly considering the amount of possession they had. On the couple of occasions where they fashioned chances, Phipps was quick off his line to pull off a couple of great saves.
At the end of a second half that saw some questionable timekeeping (it appeared that the Ref turned his clock back a week too early), the Ramblers clung on to secure a much needed 4-3 victory.
The cup holders are back on track.
|October 20, 2018||2:00 pm||Garrison Cup||2018-19|
|Port Sunlight F.C.|
|Tebay Rd, Birkenhead, Wirral CH62 3AB, UK|