CAMMELL LAIRDS 1907 FC 3 CONGLETON TOWN FC 2
(Macron Cup semi-final)
After experiencing a modest Division One South League season, finishing 14th with a 12-7-19 record, Cammell Lairds (the Camels) were enjoying a bright end of season in cup competitions.
On Saturday, after a 2-2 draw, they defeated Ilkley Town 5-4 on penalties in the First Division Cup semi-final. They face Isle of Man in the final (ITALICS writes Mike McLaughlin).
A week ago they had beaten Barnton 1-0 to earn a Macron Cup semi-final meeting with the Bears.
Cammell Lairds were promoted to the Premier Division in 2015/16 when they finished 15th, being relegated the next.
They and the Bears have met only seven times, with five victories and a draw heavily favouring the Bears.
But, at the Prabhu Ventures Ltd Arena, Birkenhead, last Tuesday evening, the Bears knew that they were facing a team on a belated season high, saturated in cup success, sweeping all before them, steadfastly set on, apparently, a remarkable cup final treble.
The Bears looked to have a strong squad: no Buckley still, but a team full of in-form individuals and a complete bench.
Ray Ogden was also happy with the setting: “A tidy ground … quite a good pitch in decent condition … friendly, hospitable people, but no clubhouse.”
The home side kicked off. They piled forward, anxious to impose themselves, to overwhelm their visitors before they could settle. They lofted long balls almost indiscriminately, hoping to panic the visitors and create openings.
Chadwick, Read and co, however, stood firm. Their team began to push back.
As Parton had to execute a flying save, so a Chadwick header had to be cleared off the line.
Nsaka was probing in characteristic fashion down the left. On 26 minutes, one of his crosses soared to the far post to be volleyed fiercely into the net by an onrushing Needham; 1-0 to the Bears.
Chadwick, struggling after a violent collision, had to be replaced by Griffiths, but the visitors were coming on strong.
Jones-Griffiths skied over an open goal, and it was half-time.
A goal ahead after a hectic and competitive opening half, with the only concern the removal of defensive rock Chadwick from an inexperienced defence, the Bears faced the second half full of hope and expectation.
They began well. The game remained closely fought, little between the teams, but the Bears were edging matters.
Then calamity: a sloppy pass in midfield set the Camels away down their right, deep into the heart of the Bears’ defence. A strong shot flew across Parton into the distant bottom corner; 1-1 on 66.
Worse was to follow as on 72 minutes, Parton conceded a penalty, and it was suddenly 2-1.
Now it was suddenly serious.
The Bears hammered their way into the home half. A scramble developed in the penalty area, the ball flying in and out. It fell to Jones-Griffiths. He smashed home a beauty; 2-2 on 79 minutes.
The Bears continued to press; victory so close.
But the home side were indomitable. From an innocuous free-kick a home player reached the ball unchallenged and his header hit the net; 3-2 on 85 minutes.
Desperation, and too late to recover this time, the Bears were out.
“A familiar tale of missed chances, and needlessly conceded goals” sighed a crestfallen Ray Ogden. “They took their chances and we didn’t take ours.”
Frustrating and so disappointing for the Bears.
Dreamland for the Camels.
Someone tweeted: “OH MY WORD. Cup final number THREE booked. No idea what else to say about these lads. Unbelievable. Up. Them. Camels.”
A post script to the disappointment was added on the following Saturday when Cammell Laird played Charnock Richard in the Macron Cup final … and were beaten 5-0.