Wheatley AFC 4 v Moortown Merlins 5
Wheatley battled heroically on Sunday against a rampant Moortown side in the first round of the cup. Whilst the home team was left frustrated with the 4-5 score line, Mark Powell’s men can be comforted with the fact they fought to the end in a bruising battle with the Merlins.
Wheatley front man Phil Bolton opened the scoring with a tap-in from an Andy Hibbert header that bounced off the cross-bar.
The midfield looked solid, with Johnny Keith doing what he does best – getting stuck in with a typical pugnacious display. At times Wheatley played truly attractive football, helped by the introduction of a light ball and a fairly even playing surface. One touch passes often broke the Merlin’s defence and for a while Wheatley enjoyed the fruits of their labour.
Danny Bott had a strong sighter on goal but shot straight at the Merlin’s keeper. Amazingly Hibbert’s dominant right boot nearly produced another goal from a free kick inside his own half, the ball all but bouncing over the keeper’s head.
Chris Quaife was relieved of his midfield duties with a stint between the sticks – a position which proves much harder than it looks. Suddenly Quaife’s box was peppered with a torrent of long-range thrown-in by the Merlins. But Quaife had got his angles spot on when he let a cross cum shot drift over his head, the ball harmlessly striking the cross-bar, much to the hullabaloo of the travelling away fans.
At half-time the score was 2-1 to Wheatley. Only time would tell whether this one goal lead would be sufficient.
Terry Pearson then made it three with a confident strike just inside the Merlin’s penalty area. Five minutes later a seemingly innocuous challenge was judged to be an unfair one, and Merlins pulled a goal back with the resulting penalty. John Turnbull was left seething, and his enthusiastic remonstration was deemed harsh enough for the game’s first booking.
Ben Cater replaced a battered Dave Healy on the defensive flank. Another slight contact brought about a free-kick twenty yards from the home team’s goal and the ball was splendidly curled around the wall and past the despairing diving Quaife to level the score at 3-3.
Another long throw-in by Merlins caused confusion in the penalty box and a strong header now made it 4-3 to Moortown.
Soon afterwards a long range effort found its way to the bottom left corner to make it 5-3. Wheatley morale could have dwindled, but a fantastic Hibbert free-kick proved enticing and Andy Wheeler rushed in gleefully to nail a high quality header past the keeper into the top right corner. This was an exceptional goal, and could only have been more accurate if the impressive Wheeler had kept his eyes open!
So 5-4 to Merlins with ten minutes to play had both teams pressing on until the final whistle. Pearson then had a genuine claim for a penalty in the dying minutes, only for the referee to wave away his shouts.
A truly entertaining game enjoyed by both players and spectators.