|We’re Man United, We do what we want!|
Jon Ridout (11) V (10) Gareth O’Neill – won on ‘next goal the winner’ rule
He left it late again but Jon Ridout led his team to victory in a tense encounter against Team Gareth O’Neill, pipping them with a late golden goal and earning the right to play in the inaugural Team Picker Cup Final.
It seems like an age has passed since Ridout had last led a team out at the Team Picker Cup, which was the opening game against Gareth Jenkins. He won that fixture right at the death by trailing his opponent for most of that match and true to form he managed to keep his supporters sweating here too.
The challenge he faced was to get the better of the man who had yet to lose a game – as a team picker and player – and who was not ready to lose just yet. Gareth O’Neill’s impressive record is a reflection of a ferocious hunger to win each game and the burning desire to be in the mix when the precious cotton will be handed out at the very final game.
Just like Ridout’s trusty tendency to leave things late, O’Neill was also consistent by not failing to bring that trademark appetite for acclaim. From the first minute he was winning tackles and driving forward in attack with Leviathan like confidence, providing effectively the engine room for his team. Ridout meanwhile led from the front, primed and ready to pounce on any opportunity to grab the goals needed to win the tie.
|I’ve never seen the lads so attentive… but then there’s always Billy!|
The game offered a great blend of excitement, controversy and tension that we’ve come to accept as a standard for Team Picker Cup games; from the word go in this match it was clear that some of the previous quarter finals haven’t been as enjoyable and competitive as this semi final. To add extra spice there was the token own goal, handball calls dispute over the goalkeeper handing outside of the goal area plus a spell of play which continued despite the ball being a goal kick. The TPC continues to provide a healthy dose of competition to TTFE!
At half time the score was tied 5-5 and no side looked to be running away with it just yet. In the second half however Team O’Neill seemed to push on the gas and the goal cushion began to widen. This was coupled with a Team Ridout which was looking nervous and slightly bereft of ideas – possession was cheaply lost in midfield, heads were dropping and the team were getting caught short at the back.
The turning point however came near the end when Team O’Neill were leading by two or three goals only for misfortune to strike the captain. O’Neill overextended himself whilst chasing down the type of ball he’d been winning all game and this time his determination alone could not help him through the pain. Feeling the strain in his ankle he had no choice but to eject Billy Collins from goal and go in for himself. This unfortunate move possibly unsettled his team and Team Ridout began their fightback, grabbing the vital goals to force a draw of 10 goals a piece. The ‘Next goal the winner’ rule was evoked and it became the dreaded sudden death for that final place.
|This was the REAL game changing point – that awesome tackle!|
With no finger nails left to bite on either side, Stuart Parsons earned a footnote in the TPC history books by firing a superb finish into the net and secured captain Ridout a place in the final. Ridout’s players jumped in jubiliation and riased their fists in the air to signal a famous victory. Gareth Jenkins, who perhaps was the strongest contender for Man of The Match with a superb performance, was once again on the losing side against Ridout and suffered the most bitter of defeats. O’Neill was gracious in defeat but understandably stunned and disappointed with his exit from the competition. He thanked his players as he nursed his sore ankle.
The question is will we see anything of this competitive nature like this in the final? If Running Late Ridout has anything to say about it, I’m sure we will all be in for a treat.
|Well done Jon!|
|Team O’Neill (L-R) Tom, Chris, Gaji, Billy, Pugh, Lunges, Big G the fish|
|Team Mo Ridout (L-R) Stu, Luco, Mike, Callum, Ridout, Greg, Joe|
|Invest well William.. you have a final to play!|