By Joseph Richardson
UCLan 1st team are through to the Conference Cup semi-finals following a dramatic 6-5 victory on penalties against the UCLan 2nds.
All four goals were scored in an explosive extra time, after a lacklustre 90 minutes finished 0-0.
The 1sts looked like they would progress 2-1 in extra time, but a goal in the 123rd minute by 2nds defender Alex Chu forced spot kicks.
At 5-5 in the shootout, 2nds winger Moss Sirisom had his penalty tipped onto the bar by Ruari McDaid. In front of a packed crowd, 1st team striker Yves Zamrt converted the decisive kick, to spark jubilant celebrations from the 1st team.
After just 12 minutes, the UCLan 1sts were reduced to ten men, when midfielder Alex O’Rourke was adjudged to have head-butted an opponent.
Then the 2nds were awarded a contentious penalty, to add to the 1st team’s frustration. However captain Mikey Alcock’s effort was tame, and easily parried to safety.
Andy Harrison’s 2nd team wasted a hatful of chances, but came closest when Matty Higginson hit the bar.
The second half was largely non-eventful, but the 2nds, officially the home team, rattled the woodwork again.
Then just two minutes into extra time, the deadlock was finally broken by the 2nds. Higginson’s cross was met by Alcock, who redeemed himself by thumping a volley into the bottom corner.
The 1sts responded immediately, equalising courtesy of a bullet header from Eamonn Hughes.
And then Connolly went through one on one with 2nds goalkeeper McCarthy, who bought him down for another penalty. 1st team captain Jamie Wynne coolly slotted the ball home, to give the 1sts the lead for the first time in the match, despite being down to 10 men.
Josh Dunroe was later sent off for the 2nds for a late challenge.
It looked certain the 1sts would hold on, but incredibly, Alex Chu nodded home from a corner with the last action of the game to force penalties.
In the shootout, the first three kicks for both sides were scored.
Surprisingly, Shaun Kelly missed for the 2nds, but then Andy McCreadie failed, to leave the score locked at 3-3.
It was down to sudden death and when Alcock missed his second penalty of the game, it gave Mark McGroarty the chance to win the match.
But he missed as well. 5-5 the score, before Sirisom missed and Zamrt kept his cool to send UCLan 1sts through.
1sts manager Shadab Iftikhar felt his team deserved the victory.
“I think we deserved to get through. I thought we played very well, showed tremendous character. To control it in such an intense game was phenomenal.”