It was Mereway Sapphires who reached the Final of the NFA Veterans Cup today as a goal in each half gave them a 2-0 victory over the Cooks.
Sunday 26th February 2023
NORTHANTS F.A VETERANS CUP SEMI-FINAL
COGENHOE UNITED VETS (0) 0 MEREWAY SAPPHIRES VETS (1) 2
It was top of D3 against top of D2 of the Milton Keynes Veterans League on the back pitch at Compton Park this morning, with a place in the final of the county Veterans cup at stake for the winners. You will have to check out Finbarr’s photos to see Mereway’s colours as words alone cannot describe their shirts!
The Cooks made an edgy start and looked a little shaky at the back in the opening minutes and only a great challenge from Dan Duggan stopped Peter Smith from punishing an early error. Stand-in keeper Phil O’Brien came out quickly to the edge of his box to claim a long ball with Chris Kirby in pursuit, while Craig Smith had been fouled as he broke down the left, but managed to keep his footing to reach the box, but couldn’t get past Dan Tapp in the visitor’s goal. Peter Smith was wide of the mark with his shot on the turn from 30-yards out, but the diminutive striker opened the scoring 15 minutes in. An inch prefect cross from the right delivered by Darren Stirling picked out Smith’s run and he rose to head past O’Brien from 7-yards out, giving the keeper no chance at all.
Chris Kirby hooked a shot wide after O’Brien had pushed away a Stirling cross, then another great delivery by Stirling was headed just over at the far post by Dirk Campling. Paul Carroll played a low cross towards the near post, then Ollie Reynolds played it back, but Lewis Hill couldn’t steer it home. Gary Duggan became the first player to be shown the yellow card by Trevor Martin for catching Sam Cooper late while the Cooks won a couple of free-kicks just outside the area with Steve Carroll seeing his floated cross headed away from the first, then Lee Haines went goal with his, but it went one bounce straight into the keeper’s thankful arms. Gareth Crisp tried his luck from 30-yards out, but his volley was way over bar height just before another good cross from Stirling forced Ricky Smith to beat his namesake Peter in the air at the expense of a corner. A nice move by Mereway wasn’t matched by Campling’s finish on the edge of the box as his weak effort rolled straight at O’Brien. A decent free-kick into the Mereway area from Steve Carroll created a short spate of head tennis before being cleared and with the half-whistle not too far away, the Cooks started playing their usual football and were starting to threaten. Sam Duggan sent a 30-yarder well over the bar, while down the other end, Sapphires were awarded a free-kick 25-yards from goal, but Kirby’s effort was straight at O’Brien.
Half-time; Cooks 0 Mereway 1
A good in-swinging corner from Haines saw Tapp get his gloves to the ball and it dropped just to far ahead of Steve Carroll for him to steer it back on target from beyond the back stick, while down the village end O’Brien caught a looping cross from Stirling at his near post before Liburd could get his head on to the ball. Steve and Paul Carroll exchanged passes and the latter was homing in on his brother’s return when John Slater was penalised for controlling the ball with his arm. If he did hand ball it then he was the last man and could have been in real trouble, however the referee opted not to speak to him. Would have been a harsh call if he had dug the red card out of his pocket in this instance though. Steve Carroll went for goal with the central free-kick and wasn’t too far over the bar with his effort.
Hanger had to work hard to get back and challenge Kirby as he broke into the box, then Dirk Campling went close with a great effort when he met Stirling’s deep cross on the volley and the ball flew across O’Brien’s goal and just wide of the far post. Kirby picked out Liburd at the far post with a lovely cross, but the big number ten didn’t get any power behind his header and dropped easily into the waiting arms of the keeper. Campling played a ball in from the right that bounced up and Peter Smith steered his header over O’Brien, but the ball hit the bar and came back into play as Mereway had a good spell of attacking possession. A few competitive tackles in the centre of the park came to an abrupt halt when Sam Cooper lunged in with his studs off the ground leaving Martin with little option but to dig out his yellow card again and Hanger soon joined in for bringing down Liburd who had flown by the Cooks defender and was heading towards the box.
Paul Carroll saw his shot into a crowded box blocked by a defender, but it was 2-0 to the visitors on 79 minutes with a soft goal to concede. A free-kick 20-yards out saw Liburd strike it well, but it slipped straight through the arms of O’Brien and into the net. Very tough on the stand-in keeper who had served his teammates well on the whole. The Cooks gave three of their subs a run out for the last ten minutes or so with Doni Reed, Mark Dent and Cormac Hammill coming on, but the game was really petering out now with Sapphires managing the game to a finale. Gareth Crisp’s ambitious 40-yarder sailed over the bar, Steve Carroll’s effort from fifteen yards closer was well wide, then with the final effort of the game, Sam Duggan went close to pulling one back from just outside the box, but his shot curled just the wrong side of the upright.
The first defeat of the season for the Cooks and overall Mereway deserved to reach the final today. There wasn’t too much between the teams on the field, but the visitor’s created the clearest chances and took two of them. We didn’t really find our feet and our usual football passing game only showed up on the odd occasion today. Well done to the Sapphires and good luck in the final and hoping you win it for the MK Vets league.
Cooks; 1. Phil O’Brien 2. Craig Smith 3. Lee Haines © 5. Steve Carroll 7. Ricky Smith (sub 9. Donovan Reed) 8. Sam Duggan 10. Lewis Hill 12. Gary Duggan (sub 4. Mark Dent) 14. Daniel Hanger 17. Ollie Reynolds 18. Paul Carroll (sub 15. Cormac Hamill).
Yellow cards; G. Duggan (29) Foul. Hanger (66) Foul.
Sapphires; 1. Daniel Tapp 2. Darren Stirling 5. Ade Muir 6. Gareth Crisp © 7. Peter Smith 8. Sam Cooper 9. Dirk Campling 10. Nat Liburd 14. John Slater 16. Craig Cooper 17. Chris Kirby. Subs used 13. Justin Wiles 4. Brett Foster 19. Andy Wooldridge + 2 others.
Yellow card; Sam Cooper (63) Foul.
Referee; Trevor Martin
Assts; Alex Murison & Andrew Watson.