FA Youth Cup 2nd Qualifying Round Bishops Cleeve 3 Cirencester Town 5
Cleeve took a long time to work out that the diminutive but brave and speedy Ciren wingers carried the major threat to their defence. By the time they had got themselves organised, Connor Thompson and Shannon Pocock had pinched two first half goals and created two good chances.
It was Thompson who scored, on 12 then 18 minutes, but it was Pocock who set up clear chances for Brad Hooper and Joe Shepherd, the first a piledriver bravely stopped by Ben Allsop in the Cleeve goal, the second scooped inches wide after a flowing move down the Ciren right.
Cleeve were sprightly enough chasing passes but could not get enough pressure on the Ciren defence to pull their cover apart. It was not until 36 minutes that Liam Harding put in their first strong effort, straight at Charles Steward in the Ciren goal.
Within 3 minutes of the restart it looked game over when Dan Hale took advantage of defensive hesitation to nip in and head past Ben Allsop for 3-0. Cleeve had rejigged their formation to go much tighter on Joe Shepherd and Henry Trass in the Ciren midfield and had put three up front to try and grab something back. Shaken, they battled back.
Cleeve peppered the Ciren half with long passes but their opener on 55 minutes was a gem. Good midfield passing and control from John Hearn and Louis Brown sent Stuart Midwinter through the middle and his pass wide to Alastair Browning was returned to him on the edge of the box to lash in, despite Steward getting a hand to the shot.
The game became a gritty battle but Cleeve’s pressing brought them a second goal on 67 minutes when Ciren did not clear a free kick and Andy Palmer was left unmarked five yards out. Allsop made a superb diving stop to keep out an effort by Steve Bray, with Midwinter at the other end firing over the top, with Steward exposed, when 3-3 looked a certainty.
On 75 minutes Ciren seemed to make the game safe when Steve Bray met a clever near post corner by Thompson to divert his header past Allsop for 2-4. Refusing to accept defeat, Cleeve battled back yet again with Aidan Bennett making a goal saving tackle for Ciren on 78 minutes when he tracked back to nail Alastair Browning when it looked as if the speedy forward was about to make it 3-4.
Sean Cole did achieve that on 85 minutes, again punishing loose defending by Ciren off a Cleeve free kick. For a few minutes fast and furious Cleeve attacking to force an equaliser had Ciren wobbling until, when Connor Thompson was passed clear then felled, Henry Trass struck an unstoppable 25 yard free kick into the top corner to settle a rousing match.
Cleeve: Ben Allsop, Dan Cipriani, Alec Buckland Y89, Sean Cole, Andy Palmer [Dan Beale 70], Steve Cipriani, Louis Brown, Liam Harding (c) [Joe Mogg 45], John Hearn, Alastair Browning [Ross Nichol 87], Stuart Midwinter Y59 subs: George Stockton, Jake Herd g/k
Ciren: Charles Steward, Alec Daley Y89, Aiden Bennett, Henry Trass, Adam Cooke, Steve Bray (c), Connor Thompson [Aiden Elliott 87], Joe Shepherd Y85, Dan Hale Y70 [Jack Ellis 77], Brad Hooper [Sam Farr 89], Shannon Pocock subs: Aaron Perry, Mark Norridge
Ref: Mr S Jacques, Cheltenham Att: 59 MoM: Sean Cole (Cleeve) Henry Trass (Ciren)