While league play takes a two week break, the Juggernauts booked a place in First Division Cup semi-final next Sunday against the winner of Norfolk/London Portuguese after defeating the home side Middlesex by a score of 3-0 in Saturday’s quarter final game.
The knockout competition had both sets of coaches expecting another mouth-watering showdown between two teams which are very familiar with each other. And conditions on the sweltering afternoon were certainly indicative of the expected play as temperatures soared into the mid-90s at game time. The game started with both teams feeling each other out and then midfielder Sim Manocha had an opportunity to fire the Juggernauts into a 22nd-minute lead but was let down by a terrible bounce as he burst into the box. Now the game was unofficially on.
Juggernauts went ahead late in the first half as center midfielder Andrew Gravett sent a pass perfectly behind the Middlesex back line to striker Neil Van De Walle. As it turned out Van De Walle’s initial shot was blocked but he stuck with the play, regained control, and beat two defenders and made no mistake on the second chance and fired the always important opening goal. Within five minutes Van De Walle had his brace when Nick Martin sent a well placed 40 yard pass behind the Middlesex backline which Van De Walle took one touch and fired a quick shot past the stunned Middlesex keeper. Middlesex was on the back foot for the rest of the first half as St. Marys controlled the middle of the park and stretched home side in the channels.
Half time St Marys made no adjustments as the formula was to give Middlesex more of what was delivered in the first half, which was push the tempo of the game and apply pressure when the ball was not in St. Marys’ control. Then ten minutes into the half the game was put on ice as Juggernaut striker Kene Mills battled through five Middlesex defenders and fired the killer blow score. As the Juggernauts cheered Middlesex were arguing vehemently about the physicality of the build up to the goal and the reality is Mills is one tough player to get the ball from.
In a bruising encounter, Van De Walle was withdrawn as a precaution. Striker Evin Murray had sight of the Middlesex goal shortly afterwards but before he could take the shot he was fouled by the keeper and the referee let play go on as it appeared Murray rode the challenge and had an opportunity to get the ball. When that did not materialize the play was blown and the Middlesex keeper was issued a yellow card for his tackle, signaling a heightened dynamic to the game – keep your head up.
Coach John Flanagan stated “We expected it to be a physical game and it was exactly that. But after the game we respect each other as we do push each other positively but we always have a few exceptions which we get over eventually.”
Middlesex was shutout by keeper Aaron Wybrow who had his saves to make, however the best chance for the opposition was wasted early after the Mills goal as the Middlesex striker lifted an unchallenged shot over the bar. A score at that point would have provided the emotional lift Middlesex required but St. Marys fortunately caught a break for a change.
Middlesex tried all sorts of methods but none let them hold the initiative for long and even the change in formation could not knock the Juggernauts out of their stride. St. Marys deservedly held the lead to book a spot in the semi final.
The St. Marys back four Aaron Leyser, Tyler Orchard, Sjoerd DeWitt and Woolfy’s Player of the Match Even Doupe played a full 90 minutes and with the good communication from keeper Wybrow they combined to repel the speed and creativity of the Middlesex strikers. Once the initial threats were dealt with they did an admirable job of passing the ball off to the midfield which welcomed back Manocha, Nick Martin and Korey Mills and with the best football from Harm Vosters and Gravett did what was required to set up the goal scoring opportunities. “We also used striker Evin Murray in left midfield and to date he has performed very well and certainly gives us the depth required as we get into a difficult set of fixtures,” commented Coach Gord Moylan. “We have a reworked line up for the semi final but will field a competitive team as we do have a well balanced team and expect whoever we face to provide an entertaining game.”
The Juggernauts will play the First Division Cup semi final Sunday, Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. at the London Marconi Club. Next league game is at the DCVI pitch on Friday, Aug. 10 at 8 p.m.