Quarter-Final of U18 Youth Cup 15 – Great performers with Kacper Smilek the penalty shoot-out hero

St Peter FC U18’s had another early start on Sunday 2nd February for the quarter-final game against Sevenoaks Town FC. All of their games have had to be played away, so leaving on the 7.30 am red-eye wasn’t a new experience. The week leading up to the game was a worrying time, with two or three injuries to key players and the news that the teams only registered goalkeeper Pierce Roche had sustained a broken bone in his hand and would be out of action for several weeks. Former U16 keeper Joe Harrington (who now turned to Rugby) was re-signed and agreed to be the custodian for one of the biggest games a St Peter Junior team has ever played. The team arrived at the Bourne Stadium full of confidence and ready to give everything to win a place in the semis.

The team started tentatively and were just getting into their stride when a Sevenoaks corner from the left wasn’t dealt with and was scrambled into the net in the 12th minute. 3 minutes later worse was to happen, a long diagonal ball to the far post, saw the Sevenoaks tall rangy winger head home to make it 2-0. It looked like being a long afternoon just 15 minutes into the game. Playing the favourites to win the competition, St Peter had given them a two-goal start. It was clear that the 3rd goal would be crucial. Instead of heads dropping, this proved to be the turning point, the belief and determination grew. Playing the ball around well, the reds were in a period of domination. A beautiful move involving 5 passes found Tommy Boarer on the ball and his beautifully weighted ball found Jan Bentley in the clear. Although he was being closed down rapidly, Jan hit a fine shot past the keeper from 20 yards, 2-1 after 20 minutes. All the pressure was now coming from St Peter, the brilliant midfield trio of Toby Ritzema, Tommy Boarer and Luke Lister were controlling the game. The Kent teams defence was beginning to look vulnerable under pressure. Toby Ritzema whose work rate was phenomenal struck a firm shot to the keepers bottom right corner which he just managed to turn around the post. From the resultant beautifully struck corner, Tommy Boarer leapt highest to nod home the equaliser after just 26 minutes. Just two minutes later from another Danny Fernandes corner, Boarer was there again to head goal-wards only for the keeper to push the ball onto the bar. Sevenoaks came back into the game and young Joe Harrington was put to the test making three outstanding saves.
Half time 2-2 and all to play for.

Once again, the Jersey team started the second half slowly and the Kent team dominated the early exchanges, strategically testing the reds defence with crosses into the area. From one of these a loose clearance found its way to the Sevenoaks striker unmarked on the edge of the box, who took a couple of strides before hitting a left-foot volley giving Harrington no chance. 3-2 Sevenoaks with 52 minutes on the clock. This was a trigger for St Peter to have another spell in the ascendancy, playing some delightful one-touch football. Half chances came and went. In the 60th minute, the odds appeared to be against a St Peter victory when keeper Joe Harrington went down with a badly pulled groin muscle. With no Goal-keeper on the bench, centre back Kacper Smilek took over the jersey with James Carr moving to centre back alongside Ben Hamilton and Andre Dias taking over the left-back slot.
Hamilton was performing heroics in preventing the Sevenoaks highly rated First team striker from having any impact on the game. Rhys Thomas was controlling the threat down the Sevenoaks left flank. Ritzema, Boarer and Lister were in control of the midfield, with Jan Bentley and Danny Fernandes providing width and causing Sevenoaks problems down the flanks. Several near chances presented themselves but it took until the 75th minute before the decisive pinpointed pass from Ben Hamilton found Ryan Marcinko who quickly turned his marker and was in on goal before a desperate last-ditch tackle brought him down. Penalty St Peter, Marcinko grabbed the ball and struck it firmly into the bottom left-hand corner of the net. 3-3. Straight from the re-start nerves were on edge when a silly foul was committed on the edge of the area 30 yards out. The Kent team were very well-coached with their set-pieces. Kacper Smilek, however, pulled off a great save to push the resultant kick over the bar.

Full time 3-3 30 minutes of extra time both teams were keeping it tight without too many clear cut chances for either side.
St Peter had a scare when Smilek dropped the ball which appeared to be heading over the line but he made a magnificent recovery to clear the ball away safely. In the closing minutes of extra time, Luke Lister dribbled past three players, struck the ball sweetly with his left foot only for it to go inches the wrong side of the post. One further chance for Sevenoaks when their striker found himself clear on goal only for James Carr to pull off a magnificent last-ditch tackle to clear. From the resultant corner, Smilek punched clear finding Boarer who played skipper Toby Ritzema through on goal only for the referee to blow the final whistle before he could shoot. 3-3 after extra time
120 minute of play and now the drama of the penalty shoot-out.
St Peter went first, through skipper Toby Ritzema neither keeper was getting a hand on the ball although Kacper Smilek got very close to two of them.
More successful strikes from Marcinko, Jan Bentley, and Luke Lister gave St Peter a 4-3 lead and up stepped the young fourth penalty taker for Sevenoaks and Kacper Smilek made himself the hero of this fantastic game with a fine save diving to his right. It was now down to Tommy Boarer, with all the pressure on him he cracked the ball into the bottom corner to put St Peter FC into the semi-final of this prestigious competition 5-3 0n penalties. From 64 starting teams, they are now into the last four
Although they did it the hard way from 2-0 down, there is no doubt that overall on the balance of play and the outstanding football played it was a deserved result against a team riding high at the top of their league and unbeaten to date in the best Junior league in Kent.
Every credit must go to the two coaches, Karl Benest and Anthony Lister for the work they have done with this squad and the way they managed the team when problems were confronting them during the game.
After the game, Benest said

“I was delighted with the overall performance and commitment of all 15 players. Their attitude and willingness to work for each other was outstanding.
The team spirit in this squad is as strong as any I have experienced over the past few years, we thoroughly deserved to win this match. When you go 2-0 down so early in a game it takes belief and courage to fight back to win the game” He went on to say “ I think we have a great squad who can go on and win this competition”

Lister said,

“I am so pleased and proud of this squad, from going down 2-0 to the cup favourites on their home ground, fighting back to 2-2 and then coming back again from 3-2 down and holding their nerve in the penalty shoot-out, shows the spirit there is in this
team”.

He continued

“ Joe Harrington stepped in to keep goal only 48 hours before kick-off and did a great job for the team. Our centre back Kacper then volunteered to take over when Joe was injured and also did a brilliant job, culminating in saving the key penalty.The team have worked hard during the last few weeks on tactics, such as high press and set pieces and this is beginning to pay off. The Island Coaches should be watching some of these young players not currently in the squad more closely. It’s a pleasure to coach and be part of this U18 set up with St Peter’s. we are certainly repaying the support and opportunities the club offer these young boys.”

“If they continue to work hard as teammates and friends, there is no knowing what this group can achieve, they play football in the right spirit and have fun on and off the pitch.”

Brian Foulser 3/3/20

For further information

Brian Foulser – bmillgill@aol.com Tel; 851075
Karl Benest – karlbenest92@hotmail.com Tel;07700 369911
Anthony Lister – listers88@gmail.com Tel; 07797 750419