DAVID WOLFF DIVISION TWO CUP
FC TEAM 1 HAMPSTEAD DUCKS 1 (FC Team won 5-4 on penalties)
The Ducks produced their performance of the season to take the game to the wire in their most disciplined performance to date. The instruction pre-game was "to be difficult to beat and wait for a break," and up until the 88th minute, they had executed their game-plan to perfection.
Since taking over as head coach, Jake Summerfield has organised and motivated the Ducks. The team's last few performances have been unrecognisable from just a few weeks ago and their supporters believe this is more than just a new manager bounce.
Indeed, FC Team rode their luck in the first few minutes as the Ducks had the ball in the back of their net, only to be ruled offside.
The hosts had a few chances from set-pieces in the first half, but the Ducks frustrated them and the teams went in goalless at half-time.
FC Team continued to struggle to break the Ducks down in the second half. The Ducks' defence remained solid, strongly supported by the midfield, back four and goalkeeper, superbly marshalled by Ben Sciama, with special mention of Harry Nelson, who was outstanding at right-back. FC Team could find no way through in open play, with their best openings coming via corners.
The Ducks continued to threaten, with the pace of Max Lever and winger Dan Fattal keeping the home defence on its toes. Lever was a constant threat, and his efforts were eventually rewarded when he was brought down for a penalty a precision through ball by midfielder Joe Metliss. The resultant spot-kick was dispatched by ice-cool centre-back Ben Mesrie to spark sensational scenes. Hampstead Ducks were in dreamland.
However, FC Team's pressure from the corners wore on the Ducks, and Adam Shafron broke the Ducks' hearts with an 88th minute equaliser.
FC Team's keeper also produced a strong performance, reacting sharply to keep out a volley from midfielder Max Prais. Striker Max Lever nearly won it with a header in the closing seconds, but it was not to be, and the tie was settled by penalties.
Connor Perl, David Cohen, Mitch Young, Ben Sollosi and Adam Klein all converted from the spot for FC Team. Ben Mesrie, Joe Metliss, Harry Nelson and Dan Fattal were successful for the Ducks, but Simon Fox missed the target as the favourites edged through.
Proud Ducks' boss Jake Summerfield told JC Sport: "We set up to be hard to beat and the game-plan worked impeccably. We frustrated the opponent and to a man, our boys were magnificent. It's a shame to have been knocked out at such a late stage, but gives us huge hope that the Ducks can push on soon.
"Crucially, we maintained our three most important elements throughout; their shape, their heads, and their discipline. FC Team were frustrated with themselves as much as they were with us.
"It was anyone's game with penalties; but ultimately we weren't able to score all five, and so we ended up defeated, but proud.
"Many thanks to FC Team; they are great competitors, and we're looking forward to playing them again."
Relieved FC Team player-manager Mitch Young told JC Sport: “We are absolutely delighted to be in a cup final. This is why we play Sunday league football to have moments and there is nothing better than a final day.
"Congratulations to Ducks - they are a great bunch of guys and nearly pulled off a very unlikely win."
Young went on to say: "In terms of the game and, as Tony Incenzo put it, “the most one-sided semi-final" he has ever see”. The game should have finished 6/7-1, however, our finishing was awful. Ducks ventured into our box once and got a penalty!
"Our five penalty takers were clinical though. No-one remembers a performance in a semi-final it is all about just getting there, so I am not going to dwell on that and with the final being in two months we can now focus on our final four league games. With a top two finish now guaranteed, we will do all we can to battle till the end.”