HERTS COUNTY CUP QUARTER-FINAL
ROYSTON EAGLES 7-5 STOTFOLD (after extra time, 4-4 after 70mins)
DON’T let the 12 goals fool you. It was way more epic than that.
Eagles produced their second display of pure guts and desire in a fabulous cup run to earn – really earn – a place in the last four.
The team fought off the disappointment of twice falling behind, the agony being denied victory in normal time by a second penalty awarded against them AND the frustration of feeling they were too often on the end of refereeing mistakes, to gain sweet revenge for their silly league defeat by the same opponents.
The first test of character came when Stotfold’s talisman – the ever-impressive Matt well known to all parents who have followed local football at this level – put them ahead.
Just as in the second half of the away league match, there was too much space down the middle and behind and Jacob McGlynn had no chance of keeping out a cool finish.
Thankfully, Eagles hit back quickly. Logan Downie was yet again proving a menace down the left and he found Archie MacLeod, who worked the ball sweetly to Cameron King to turn and fire in the equaliser.
Moments later, another Downie run teed up Kian Harness to make it 2-1.
Back came Stotfold, with a penalty scored by you know who after some uncertain defending ended in handball in the box.
When that man again chased a dubiously awarded free kick and no Eagle made a challenge, suddenly the visitors were ahead and probably deservedly so.
The strong, cold wind gusting across the pitch had been a factor in Stotfold’s first-half superiority, though.
Eagles came out quickly after the break and Downie popped up at the far post to equalise.
Then King and Harness combined well for the latter to put Royston ahead again, with the semi-final beckoning.
Some felt the penalty awarded to the visitors with four minutes left was soft, but there was no denying the decisiveness with which Mr Stotfold put it away. Again.
And so to extra time. The decision to play with the wind in the first added period looked inspired.
Harness showed huge determination and bravery to run after a McGlynn goal kick and leap to head the ball over the advancing goalkeeper and into the net.
Then Anthony Georgiou produced a moment of absolute brilliance, lashing the ball home off the post with his left foot.
Cue huge but potentially premature celebrations among the Eagles players.
Because the game was far from over. In the second period of extra time, Matt almost scored his fifth goal of an astonishing display, with McGlynn making a decent save only for the follow-up to be tucked in to make it 6-5.
By now grey hairs were sprouting freely along the Eagles section of the near touchline. Then Downie did one more lung-bursting run down it, Harness helped the ball on and King made it 7-5.
Even then, there was a bit more drama to come, as McGlynn made another good low save.
The referee’s decision to blow the final whistle was his most welcome one of the day.
But despite tempers rising on the pitch and on both touchlines, hopefully this game will be remembered for the right reasons.
It was a full-blooded, compelling cup tie between two well-matched teams who showed great heart and sometimes great skill in a fine advertisement for both clubs.
For the Eagles, there was no man of the match because, despite Harness’ hat-trick and Downie’s dynamism, this was a victory gained by a real team performance to which all the Eagles contributed.
And everyone involved, players and parents, deserved Sunday lunch and a good lie down afterwards.
Team: Jacob McGlynn; Will Hamblin, Sean Blois, Ethan Karpuk, George Palmer; Cameron King, Archie MacLeod, Conor Caughtry, Logan Downie; Anthony Georgiou, Kian Harness. Sam Fage, Owen Maslen.