Penalty heartache for Internet ‘Orns

WATFORD IFC’s IFA British Cup run was ended just short of the final; beaten on penalties by Manchester United, having previously won their way through to the semi-final in the same fashion against Airdrieonians.

Played half-way between the two clubs, who were meeting for the first time outside of WorldNet, the match at Sutton Coldfield Town FC started the match brightly for the Hornets who adopted a 4-3-3 formation, up against a strong 3-5-2 United team. However, as the game developed, the Red Devils increasingly started imposing themselves more and more upon the game. Initially this just resulted in increased possession as WIFC restricted them mostly to long-range efforts, although one of these did strike the upright.

Watford  fell behind mid-way through the half. Trying to play out from the back, United pressed a weak ball into midfield, won possession and then the goalscorer immediately hit a clever lob over a stranded Saahil Sadiq in the Golden Boys’ goal.

WIFC finished the half stronger with the introduction of some fresh legs who ran at the United back three and got them to turn towards their own goal repeatedly. Suddenly United looked vulnerable. Half-time soon came and the chat was to continue with this game plan, although little were the team to know how devastating that would be.

Firstly Ben Kelly was put though one-on-one with the keeper, who closed down the angles well, but the opening signs of the half were positive. WIFC then moved very quickly into a two-goal lead with a devastating three-goal salvo during a five-minute spell. Alfie Parkins levelled from close-range after Kelly drilled the ball across the six-yard box. A minute later, Alfie Cooke won a free-kick on the left of the box, which Tom Labbett fired into the near post for Tom Anderson to deftly flick home. Next came the goal of the game from Man of the Match Frank Smith; advancing from his defensive midfield position, he travelled and glided past numerous United players. Having looked like he’d somewhat run into a blind alley to the right of the six-yard box, he then turned inside and fired home.

United had just over half an hour to try and salvage the situation, and four minutes later the momentum of the game switched when United quickly got a goal back. Had WIFC managed to hold the two-goal lead for longer, perhaps the outcome may have been very different – as now United pressed forwards with energy. A resolute WIFC defence increasingly found United players running on from midfield against tired legs. United hit the woodwork four times in all – and it was no real surprise when they drew level with 10 minutes to go.

The last ten minutes firstly played out with United on the front foot and pushing for the winner, however on a couple of occasions the pace of the two Alfies – Cooke and Parkins – nearly unlocked breakaway chances. The final few minutes concluded with both sides feeling the spectre of an inevitable penalty shootout.

With United taking penalties first, it quickly moved to 2-2 with four successful conversions. United then missed over the crossbar, only for the next WIFC effort to be saved by the goalkeeper going the right way. The next five penalties were then all successfully dispatched, until WIFC’s sixth was saved meaning United won the shootout 5-4.

Hornets: Saahil Sadiq; Tyrone Coley, Cleveland Brandy, Joe Withey, Connor Church; Frank Smith, Tom Labbett, Callum Maloney; Romeo Coley, Ben Kelly, Alfie Cooke.
Subs used: Tom Anderson, Christian Frater, Matt Ladell, Alfie Parkins, Lamar St-Cyr.

Goals: Parkins, Anderson, Smith. Penalties scored: Smith, Labbett, Cooke, Parkins.

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