Isleham United manager delighted after his side wins William Coad Intermediate Cup semi-final on penalties
Manager Adam Horrex feels that his Isleham United side tend to go under the radar, but on Saturday – with much of the football up and down the country wiped out due to coronavirus pandemic – they took centre stage.
And they certainly made the most of their moment in the spotlight, beating fellow Kershaw Senior B side Bassingbourn 4-2 on penalties to reach the final of the William Coad Intermediate Cup.
After falling behind midway through the second half, hosting Isleham looked to be heading out until four minutes from time when they got a helping hand from visiting goalkeeper Chris O’Connor, who appeared to punch the ball into his own net as the tie ended 1-1.
The shootout that followed was packed with incident, before Isleham’s Ben Shepperson stepped up to seal his side a second cup final in as many seasons.
Horrex said: “For the club to be in two cup finals in two years is a massive achievement. It’s a nice reward for the club, not just on the pitch, but off it too.
“We have people that work extremely hard behind the scenes so it’s nice that the club can have another final to go to.
“If you would have said at the start of the season we would be in a cup final and second in the league I would have laughed at you.
“I feel being a small village and not a big name in Cambs League football, we have managed to slip under the radar a little.
“But what we have at Isleham is a young team that are willing to run through brick walls for each other. Only once this season have I had to question our work ethic and desire to be first – and we ended up winning that game 2-1.”
The first half between two in-form outfits was patchy and while Isleham were on top, Andrew Barrett’s headed effort that drifted off target in the 39th minute was about it in terms of clear cut openings.
The visitors, who had beaten Isleham by an aggregate score of 7-1 in this season’s two league meetings, improved in the second half and they went on to break the deadlock in the 69th minute.
There was more than a touch of fortune about the goal because Anthony Lane’s drilled free-kick was heading way off target until Jake Booth stuck out a boot to divert the ball beyond Danny Stackhouse.
Horrex’s team pushed for an equaliser thereafter and they threatened on a handful of occasions through set pieces and long throw-ins.
And so it was little surprise that their equaliser came from a corner which was swung in by Jack Challis. O’Connor, who had struggled with high balls for much of the afternoon, was put under pressure and his attempted clearance drifted in.
More drama followed in the shootout, as Isleham goalkeeper Stackhouse saved from Lane, who was first up for Bassingbourn. Yet, the officials deemed that the Isleham skipper had ventured too far off his line and ordered a retake, which the Bassingbourn midfielder duly dispatched.
Isleham’s Barrett and Bassingbourn’s Booth then both scored before the home team’s Charlie Goodchild was denied by O’Connor’s feet. Stackhouse came to the rescue, though, to thwart Chris Plumb and Isleham then edged in front when Dion Badcock’s low effort somehow squeezed in underneath O’Connor.
In response, Bassingbourn’s Sam Plumb cannoned his effort against the woodwork and Shepperson did the rest, sending O’Connor the wrong way to give his side the chance of winning their first piece of silverware since 2011.
“I thought we controlled the game fantastically well in the first half,” added Horrex.
“In any cup final or semi-final, it is always a cagey affair. It is just a case of keep asking questions and wait for the mistake.
“I felt in the second half we let them grow into the game and made some individual errors but with our set pieces we always give ourselves a chance of getting a goal. I think if we had lost the game in 90 minutes it would have been very harsh.
“The penalty shootout is probably one of the craziest I’ve seen – and people wonder why I’m going grey!”
Of course, it remains to be seen if there will actually be a cup final for Isleham to play in.
The earliest teams will return to action locally is April 4, with many people expecting football to have a much longer break due to the coronavirus.
Horrex said: “Obviously with the uncertainty surrounding football at this time we’re not sure what the future holds for the rest of the season.
“At our level you cannot really extend a season, as like with our pitch, we share it with the cricket club and many players in our team play both sports. The final is scheduled to be played mid-April, so it is a month away from now. We will have to wait and see if that it is going to go ahead.”
More by this authorLiam Apicella