A scrappy and controversial game at the Uni Parks last Friday saw St Anne’s reach the final of Cuppers for only the second time in their history.
Their resolute display against Teddy Hall – which saw them emerge victorious from a penalty shootout after 120 goalless minutes – was marred by a horrific injury to influential central midfielder Callum Vibert however, who suffered a broken leg from a wild Hall tackle in the second half.
The M.G.A, in the eyes of Teddy Hall at least, entered the game as underdogs given their place in college football’s third tier compared to Hall’s Premier League status. Perhaps this actually helped Anne’s, who nullified the threat of Teddy Hall, Blues and all, throughout the first 45 minutes of the tie.
After pointlessly heated email exchanges over the rescheduling of the fixture and some critical comments in sections of the student media, this game had added spice, particularly given the vocal support for both teams, who were supported on the touchline by a giant novelty teddy and beaver respectively.
This passion took a sad turn midway through the second half though, as a wild (though not malicious) tackle ended Vibert’s season, but produced just a yellow card from the referee to the dismay of the men in Mint Green. It was a tackle worthy of a red in even the most brutal Sunday League game, and the ref, perhaps regretting this decision, later sent off the offending player after he petulantly kicked the ball away.
Justice had been served, you could say, and with Teddy Hall legs tiring Anne’s were ascendant. They could not find the creative spark to unlock the Hall defence, marshalled by Blue Anthony Beddows though, and were restricted to long range efforts and the dangerous set pieces of Xavier Navas. The game drifted on through extra-time.
And so came the inevitable penalties. Anne’s keeper Nick Gardner stepped up to smash home the first attempt, before performing his best Bruce Grobbelaar impersonation to psyche out the Hall takers. The first five penalties were buried before a weak Teddy Hall effort was saved.
Two penalties later Blues centre back Robert Price stepped up to take the potential winner. Normally a centre back of experience and finesse, the pressure of the occasion showed as his effort was kept out.
One more Anne’s miss and suddenly it was Teddy Hall with a chance to win it, but their player missed the target, as did their next taker as the pendulum swung back in Anne’s favour. It was a harsh ending for Hall who played their part in a tight game, but that this will not matter to the M.G.A who gleefully partook in a pitch invasion after the decisive penalty was missed.
It was the beaver and not the teddy bear that was left smiling in the end. Anne’s, in the words of Gardner ‘took the three points’ and will look forward to the final, where a victory would vindicate the sacrifice made by Vibert during this game.