Two goals by Leor Sidle steered Manchester Maccabi into the quarter-finals of the County Cup following a 2-1 win over Trafford FC.
After being dumped out of the Morrison trophy in their worst performance of the season followed by a one-goal defeat in the league, Maccabi produced a gritty performance to overcome a solid Trafford side from the Altrincham Premier division who had brought a healthy following.
Injury and unavailability led to a new pairing in central defence, but it looked fairly solid in the opening exchanges.
Leor Sidle returned from his recent knee issues to partner Adam Stevens up front, who after a long injury lay off is slowly regaining his fitness and sharpness.
The Brooklands pitch held up well to the recent poor weather, and the opening exchanges between the teams showed this would be a close encounter.
Trafford’s central midfielders were getting the ball down well and moving it quickly, but Ashley Loofe was getting his early challenges in and giving them no respite.
The opening goal came from a lapse in concentration by Maccabi, as Simmons got caught the wrong side of the Trafford striker as he gathered the ball in the area from a pass that had travelled some distance, and as he tried to make the tackle got turned and the forward found himself with a chance to place the ball past keeper Dan Garman, which he took well. The other Trafford striker pulled up with injury shortly after and had to be replaced, and at the half the game was finely balanced.
Trafford’s captain and centre half was not able to continue due to an injured ankle and was replaced a few minutes into the second half, and Maccabi seemed to see this as an opportunity to attack their reshuffled opponents.
Rafi Leker, always a threat, latched on to a good through ball by Emile Davidson, and as he approached the Trafford keeper it looked as though his opportunity to shoot had gone as the angle was reduced. However, Leker moved the ball to the left and as the keeper dived to grab it Leker went over his outstretched arms and went down, and the referee, who had an excellent game, pointed to the spot. After the two missed penalties in the Morrison game, the nerves were on edge, but Sidle stepped up and hit a clean strike that gave the keeper no chance.
This goal visibly seemed to give Maccabi the belief that they could win this tie and their attacking play went up another gear. With 20 minutes remaining, Sidle attacked down the left and tried to deliver a cross, but it was easily intercepted and came back out to him. His response was clinical as he gathered the returning ball and lofted it straight back over the despairing keeper into the far corner of the net.
With this Trafford were now chasing the game and this led to a number of further chances at both ends. Garman made a superb close range save which was then blocked again to keep the lead intact and substitute Dave Herman shot from close range from inside the box following a corner, but this was blocked by a defender on the line.
As the referee brought proceedings to a close Maccabi could feel the result was a fair reward for their endeavour, and in particular they showed a steely resolve to see the game out to its conclusion, something that had been levelled at them as missing in previous games. They have never been further than the last eight in their history so only time will tell in the next round in January to see if this crop of players can reach the semi finals.