Final Day of Qualifying Competition
24 July 2012
Parker Avenue, Portrush
The final day of the Qualifying Competition began with promising weather. The temperature had increased a bit; the rain had slackened; there was a light breeze; and small patches of blue sky were occasionally visible. The Youngers played Dundalk at 1.30 pm at Castlerock, and the Olders played County Tyrone at 5.00 pm at Portrush.
Although the field at Castlerock was small, it was in reasonably good shape despite the rain. The pitch was built on a slope, with the upper end being several feet higher than the lower. Dundalk’s strategy was to play kick ball whenever possible. They were going downhill in the first half, and they would simply launch the ball as deep as possible whenever they kicked it, and then chase the ball, hoping to score. Despite these primitive tactics, they were able to put a lot of pressure on our defense, Dakota Havlick making three fine saves in the first half. A penalty was awarded to Matthew Gooden on the right side, near the end line. Zen Roten converted the penalty kick and the Strikers took a 1-0 lead into the changing room at half time.
Dundalk employed the same tactics in the second half, and once again failed to score, Dakota making several more excellent saves. However, the referee awarded Dundalk a penalty kick, which they converted at the 22-minute mark. The rain started up again, although it remained fairly light. There were some brief injury stoppages as the game wore on. On a corner kick from Mark Calderon, Matt shot the ball from close range and AJ Harb followed a rebound to score the 2ndgoal. The score came near the 30-minute mark, so we thought the game was over. However, the referee allowed play to continue on, and about five minutes into extra time, the referee awarded Dundalk a free kick, which they converted. The game thus ended in a draw.
The result was a bitter disappointment to our boys. The Strikers thoroughly outplayed Dundalk and, in fairness, should have taken a win. The skill levels between the two teams are not comparable. Frankly, our Juniors really did not catch a break in any of their Qualifying Matches. The Juniors are now scheduled to play Ipswich Town tomorrow afternoon in the opening game of the Vase Semi-Final back at Anderson Park in Coleraine.
The Premier team played County Tyrone at 5.00 pm in Portrush. The rain had returned, a constant drizzle falling throughout the game. The field was another wet, pint-sized pitch.
County Tyrone played very aggressively. They were quick on defense and contested every ball. Both teams played solid defense. Neither team had the run of play in the first half, although overall the Strikers played with better control and organization. The fist half ended 0-0.
Shortly after the game restarted, County Tyrone scored on a throw-in. Rather than be dismayed, however, the team was energized by that score. Only a minute or so later, on a corner kick from Abu Danladi, Robert Sagel evened the score with a brilliant header. Then, on a penalty kick awarded to Isaac Campos, Robert scored his brace. Finally, Paul Borrego made a beautiful run with the ball and passed a through ball to Abu, who put the ball in the back of the net for our final score.
Overall, it was a comprehensive, well-earned win for the Olders. They played well and fully deserved the victory. The Premier team are now scheduled to play Manchester United tomorrow at 7pm in the opening game of the Milk Cup Globe Semi-final.