Pleasant conditions and a near capacity crowd, building to two-deep along the Respect line, added to a palpable tension surrounding this Semi-Final between the Reds and Arnold Town. The pre-Kick-off handshakes were brisk with a distinct lack of eye contact, the boys had been thinking about this game for weeks and now it was time....game on.
It was a bright start for the Reds with Teddy getting involved early, scrapping for the ball and getting it through to Sam P who got his shot away, just wide. Just moments later and the roles were reversed and Sam P delivered a pin-point cross into the box that Teddy finished from close range with his left foot and it's 1-0!
Town were up for it and were retaining the ball well and weren't afraid to use their size in the tackle. A vintage Reds passing move, involving five players, carved the opposition up and shortly after, with confidence building, Louis deftly slipped the ball to his left into the path of Sam P who hammered it home! 2-0 up early on but Arnold Town didn't come to watch the Reds play....
They started to move the ball and a cross came in that was met on the volley but the ball flew over the bar. Some quality defending from Edward keeps them at bay and a couple of corners for them follow but no chances were forthcoming.
The Reds ring the changes after nine minutes and Matt and Ewan both start as they mean to go on with big tackles and passes to follow. A ball through the middle from Town saw Ewan track their centre-forward back all the way into the box, keeping the pressure on so that a weak shot was easily gathered by James.
James is getting more involved in the game now and saves a shot and then recovers quickly to pounce on it to snuff out the danger.
A foul given outside the box, after what appeared to be a fair tussle, was thumped straight into the net as the Reds were still organising themselves. James got a hand to it but it was a powerful strike and Town are back in it....2-1.
The Reds are straight back at them and Nikhil has a chance saved at the other end and Connor intercepts well to create another attack straight after. Matt is reading the game well and uses his pace to intercept several threatening through balls.
Another through ball from Town gets through the middle and a mix-up at the back sees the ball fall agonisingly to their forward who only has to tap it over the line. The match is level, 2-2. Both Ewan and James don't let this affect them for long and Ewan has a chance very shortly after to show he's not going to be distracted with a big tackle and lovely clearance down the line.
The Reds make some more substitutions after 19 minutes and shortly after a move down the left sees the ball bounce into the box. Teddy lets it bounce and come down before connecting on the half volley, the ball heads towards the goal and Louis is there to make sure it's in. 3-2. The Reds are back in the lead and Louis calls the goal for Teddy, what a 'band of brothers' these Reds are!
Sam M then latches onto a loose ball and sends a blistering shot over the bar but Town fight back and have several corners requiring two consecutive near post headers from Teddy. The touch-line pundits were wondering if he'd get his head in the way of a third, but he swaps places with Louis! Good teamwork again. Just time for some more defensive mastery from Edward and Ewan and it's half-time. Exhausting watch this....3-2 to the Reds.
Jake gets the Reds going at the start of the half with some lovely touches and feeds Sam P who almost gets through. Connor continues to get stuck in to clear the danger and then Jake passes to Ewan who slips it to Sam M and the ball loops onto the roof of the net.
The Reds keep their concentration at the back with Ewan, Edward and James keeping things calm. James effects a good save from a sharp shot and unleashes the first of a couple of gargantuan kicks, that Louis used his pace to almost get on the end of. Route One Reds?
Then a period of pressure from the Reds, with four consecutive corners, see’s Nikhil nearly sneaking one in at the near post. Teddy wins a couple of balls in the midfield and Jake's confidence is growing as he fires a great effort from distance. The pressure tells in the end, Sam M slips it to Louis and he buries it in the back of the net from the edge of the box and the Reds have a two-goal cushion, 4-2.
It's not all one-way traffic and James has to pull off a great save from a long distance effort from the Town and then gathers a very dangerous corner curling into the near post shortly after. Ewan appears as fresh as the start of the match and tackles, looks up and sends another great ball down that line to relieve the pressure.
Sam M beats several players and hits the post from close range and then Sam P and Jake find themselves running through together in a "two on one" and politeness gets the better off them both and the keeper gathers.
Sam M is running riot at the front now and his shot cannons off the keeper and falls to Sam P, only one result possible from there, it's 5-2 to the Reds and they are almost out of sight.
A couple of minutes to play out and some pressure has to be absorbed but the whistle goes and the Reds are into their first final having beaten a big and skilful side with every boy having contributed and done their job.
So it's a 5-2 win and onto the Final, to be played at a Rolls Royce, Hucknall. I hope they've got enough space to accommodate the travelling support of the Red's very excited and proud fan-base! Congratulations to the whole squad that has seen the team through to the main event. Bring it on!