After upsetting the odds with their triumph last year, Stephenson A were sent crashing out of the Floodlit Cup by Aidan’s A in a tense penalty shoot-out. After an even contest in normal time in which either team could have stolen the win, it was Will Moody who scored the decisive penalty which sent the Hill team into the next round, to face either Mildert or Butler.
In the first half, Aidan’s carved out the better chances. Ciaran Adamson was unlucky to score from long range with a low drilled shot, which cannoned off the post. Minutes later, Aidan’s went close again to scoring. James Barlow swiftly blocked the Stephenson goalkeeper’s clearance, causing the ball to deflect narrowly wide of the post.
However, Stephenson weathered this early barrage and could have easily slipped ahead. Near the end of the second half, Aidan’s keeper Will Legg was called into action twice to keep the scores at 0-0, first with a tremendous double save and then with a smart intervention from an awkward cross.
In the opening part of the second half, it was a role reversal as Stephenson came out of the blocks far more sharply. A few lapses in concentration from the industrious Aidan’s defensive partnership of Tewy and Tomsett were fortunate to go unpunished. Their blushes were spared by some intelligent goalkeeping from Legg and wasteful finishing from the visitors.
Mid-way through the second half, the balance shifted once more into the favour Aidan’s. RB Rory More’ O Ferrall marauded from his usual position to chase down what seemed to be an aimless pass which was going out of play. More’ O Ferrall kept the ball alive and managed to fire a low shot into the box. The Stephenson keeper did not deal with the cross but with the goal at his mercy, James Barlow could only strike the post with his rebound.
In the closing stages, the game petered out as both teams struggled with fatigue and cramps. The clock ticked down and the contest was brought to a penalty shootout.
Aidan’s captain Dan Tew set the example and smashed home the first penalty. Stephenson’s striker failed to replicate his feat, as his powerful shot glanced off the post. However, Aidan’s spurned the advantage, as Ed Harrington’s effort was well saved by the Stockton-based keeper. The substantial Aidan’s support on the touchline watched with bated breath and a gradual feeling of dread.
However, Aidan’s stalwart Will Legg made the crucial contribution, saving the next penalty, before promptly picking himself up to score from the spot himself.
Stephenson scored their next effort but the decisive penalty now fell to Will Moody. Under immense pressure, the midfielder converted, triggering wild celebrations as the pitch was mobbed by subs and spectators.
So, onward Aidans march. With a tie against fierce local rivals Mildert potentially on the cards, there perhaps will be added incentive for both sides to reach the semi-finals.