NEWPORT 2, FOLLAND SPORTS 2
(Newport wins 5-4 on penalties)
NEWPORT Football Club may have had some often steamy moments off the pitch this season, but they are on course to earn a place at the top of the Wessex League after beating Folland Sports on penalties in the semi-finals of the Division 1 play-offs last night (Wednesday).
When this play-off semi-final entered added time after 120 minutes of fairly turgid fare, no one could have imagined the drama that unfolded before and after the final whistle, with Port’s goalkeeper still green , Gary Streeter, the hero of the shooting.
Lily: Newport book their place in the play-off final after a dramatic end in the semis
After two tightly contested games between league sides this season, with Newport winning with a win and a draw, it was always going to be close this time around – especially with the carrot of a Premier place on the line.
The crowd of around 200 at Smallbrook Stadium watched the rambling first 15 minutes, which set the tone.
There was an air of expectation when free-kick supremo Josh Younie was in the perfect spot to score one of his wonder goals from 25 yards out, but his shot hit the wall and flew away.
After Streeter made a hash of a straight shot, which hit his chest and went for a corner, his teammates fashioned two good headed chances – first from Aaron Burford and then Joe Craig, both flying above.
When it looked almost certain it would end goalless at half-time, Folland took a shock lead – a corner kick bundled through the bar – at 40 minutes.
But a minute before intermission, Craig deliciously guided his header home from a precise free kick by Younie.
Although Newport looked more of an attacking threat as the game started to open up, they failed to bother the keeper, who had a very well drilled defense in front of him.
Folland then took the sting out of the game when one of his players underwent extended treatment for an injury, which turned the game into a scrappy affair, much like the first half, until the game goes into overtime.
As player fatigue began to set in, the quality of play deteriorated further as the prospect of a penalty shootout loomed.
But seconds after the fourth official indicated four extra minutes, Newport capitalized on a defender’s error to score and make it 2-1.
It was the first route – Streeter gave a long kick and the central defender misjudged the rebound, hence the quick thinking Craig loba the advancing guard.
With substitute Scott Sampson a colossus at the back, Folland appeared to have run out of steam, but a free-kick floated into the box from Port led to a reckless challenge, for which the referee immediately pointed the spot.
It was a brave, but seemingly correct decision that saw the visitors score with literally the last kick of the game, to the disbelief and anger of Newport fans – 2-2.
With Folland on a high after their game-winning kick, the odds were with them to win the lottery in a penalty shootout.
But after it went 3-3 on penalties, Streeter kept his cool and saved the next penalty with his feet – the incredibly loud bark of a dog as the player was about to shooting may have helped Newport at this vital moment!
Two more penalties were scored which left Connor Kelly, a regular match winner who was oddly anonymous throughout the match, stepped up to smash home the all-important fifth penalty to book a play-off final at home against Laverstock and Ford in form. , who have an extra day to recuperate after beating Andover New Street 3-0 on Tuesday night.
- For a full match report, complete with photos, see the County Press website in tomorrow’s (Friday) edition.