The U-13 Mark Casey Cup Semi Final draw pitched Portlaoise United against Kinnegad Colts over two legs. First leg saw United host the Colts in Portlaoise during the week. League games this season saw both teams record away wins with Colts winning 2-1 at Portlaoise Leisure Centre on the Astro pitch and United returned the favour by winning 3-0 away at Lagan Park. This meant neither side could take their home fixture for granted.
The first leg started with Colts flexing their physical muscle in all tackles for 50/50 balls mixed with fast breaking counterattacks and it took United a while to adjust to the physicality which continued throughout the game. 3minutes into the game and an early chance for Colts as the put a free over the bar.
A few short minutes later saw the returning Barry Fitzpatrick have an experimental crack from halfway but it was just kept in play by the keeper who got his hands to it.
This was something United don’t try enough of to beat a keeper in full size goals so it was worth a go.
6minutes lapsed on the watch and 1-0 to the home side. Alex Bennett had a super start to the game and finished very well after a storming run down the left side by Jamie Toman after a great pass by Ben McDonald. McDonald went on to work tirelessly throughout the game.
Mattie Kocon fired a lovely pass forward on 8minutes to Dan Ubesie who had a powerful shot just about saved at the near post.
Another minute gone and another goal in an excellent start for United. 2-0 to United and 2 for Alex Bennett. Dan Ubesie passed to Jamie who made a huge effort to keep the ball in play and he in turn found Alex who tucked the ball away in the net again.
Kinnegad Colts from here on seemed to be jolted into responding and got back into using their physical presence to start to come out on top in duels around the pitch. Their ability to pick a ball up at the back and send a powerful ball through or over the United back line to send a very pacy winger or forward in on goal was starting to cause some problems. They were also willing to have a shot from distance.
11minutes gone and a chance for Colts from one of those fine passes that split the defence and the overlapping fast right winger had a shot but saved by Conor Brown in United’s goal.
2 minutes later and another chance from a similar long pass through but comfortably saved again by Conor.
Colts started to press forward more and more and on 15 minutes an important tackle in the box by Ben Doyle tracking back to take the ball off the Colt’s strikers toe just before he shot at goal.
The next 10 minutes saw United steady the ship and the game was a tussle in the middle two thirds of the pitch without any real chances for either side or work required by either keeper.
24 minutes and United’s first half chance since the second goal went in. The chance from a United corner being cleared fell to Ben Doyle from the edge of the box as he struck it on the half volley but the shot was blocked down by the volume of traffic in the way.
Two chances fell to Colts after this with one going wide and the other easily saved with both attempts from distance.
2 minutes left in the half and Kinnegad Colts had another chance from a free in from the right but the chance was headed wide.
United themselves had a late chance as Jamie ran up the left again and fed Alex but the ball was blocked and broke to Ben McDonald who shot wide from the edge of the box.
Half Time, 2-0 and a much needed break for all on a very warm evening.
Just after the restart and a nice try by Luke Makem to probe a ball over the top but it was crowded out just at the last gasp before it squeezed through.
Good tracking by Mattie and Barry Fitzpatrick snuffed out a promising Colt’s attack then.
Cian Rafter was having his work cut out for him in midfield as the main combatant against a very strong Kinnegad midfield but was winning his share of battles. From time to time he could have done with a bit more support in there. On one occasion he made a crunching tackle and got the ball to Ben McDonald who drilled a pass to Ben Doyle. Ben Doyle took off to try and get past the back line to get a cross in but it was very evident that Colts came out well organised defensively in the second half as he was immediately surrounded by 4 defenders and no options to pass.
4 minutes into second half and Colts were through on goal and allowed loads of time and space to shoot but it went wide and left.
2 more minutes passed and Kinnegad were working some chances by now but they shot over.
No major surprise for what finally came within a few minutes as the score changed to 2-1 and an away goal for Colts. Pressure mounting from Colts coming forward and United really struggling to clear the danger. United couldn’t get the ball away and a Colts player pounced and scored giving the away side a huge boost.
The 40minutes mark saw very clever trickery by Jamie on the left, with support by Ben McDonald and Dave Burke, trying to break through a solid Colts defensive wall but to no avail.
This was followed by nice play by Luke Makem who did well to hold his balance while riding two tough tackles and getting a ball away to one of his team mates.
Kinnegad Colts were however still applying pressure to look for a second and looked very dangerous.
Unfortunately the referee became a significant talking point as on 42minutes a really dubious offside call was not given when the attacker was clearly 2yds offside. This yielded a second goal for the away side. Colts had been applying pressure moving forward and had plenty of opportunities but missed under pressure. United were guilty of not playing to the whistle and therefore stopped and awaited an offside decision that didn’t come. The attacker kept going and was able to slot the ball home. Both sets of supporters roared for very different reasons.
United were rocked a bit and frustrated as they seemed not to get any rub of the green when it mattered and both sides were now going to push for another to clinch the tie. Evan Hewitt was putting in important tackles alongside his defensive partner Barry Fitzpatrick who was immense again at the back.
The game had tussles all over the pitch as everyone jostled for the ball with the warm evening and the frantic pace of the game starting to have an effect on some.
9 minutes left and a rare on this occasion Ben Doyle typical ball forward to Jamie launched an attack but Jamie had his shot saved.
56 minutes and nearly a chance for a winner for Kinnegad but at last a free out to United in a packed box mix up.
United were again up in arms on and off the pitch as with only 2 minutes left, another dubious decision was made. Jamie was pushed in the back in the box when he was bearing down on goal but he didn’t go to ground and nothing was given. It would have been a free all day long outside the box.
2 very similar calls went Kinnegad’s way in the middle of the pitch soon afterwards which didn’t help the situation.
United nearly hit the self destruct button like in recent matches on the stroke of normal time being up by giving away a needless free kick on the right defensive side. The powerful kick came in and luckily for United went over the bar. The indiscipline in the closing stages could have been costly again.
3 minutes into injury time and a last chance for United after a great ball by Cian Rafter was chested down by Ben Doyle running through on goal at speed but the touch was the slightest bit too heavy and the keeper got there first just ahead of the United man.
2-2 at Full Time and Kinnegad Colts were good value for their two away goals but the tie is only half over and United can think of that as a positive to go to Kinnegad where they have previously scored 3. No doubt an exciting return leg awaits.
United’s Man Of The Match was Barry Fitzpatrick who showed no signs of the fact that he had missed the last match through injury. Very solid at the back with Evan Hewitt. Solid performances by Conor Brown, Ben McDonald, Ben Doyle and Cian Rafter