So at the third time of asking, Sacre Coeur vs Old Xaverians was actually able to be played. Both a league and a cup encounter in November had been lost to the weather and it had allowed both sides to build up a formidable record in the league and reach the new year unbeaten. Coeur were top of the league having won 11 and drawn 1 out of 12 games, while Old Xavs were a point behind, having won all 11 of their league outings. So based on footballing standards across the globe, this Grimshaw Cup encounter was due to be a clash of the titans (relatively speaking).
Coeur had Mick Robertson absent from the squad as he was living out some real life version of the shitty ITV drama Wild at Heart (well he was in Africa anyway, so I've been told). Late on Saturday morning Ste Alty informed Si that he was unable to play as his mum had been taken to hospital - Best Wishes Mrs Alty, hope you make a speedy recovery. So with no further absentees Si had 16 to select from on the day as Darren was returning from injury and Lynchy was free from his Saturday work commitments. Coeur lined up with Mully in goal, Ste Allison and Rob Phil at full back with Matty and Jacko at centre half. Ahead of them were Jack Riley, Lynchy and Ian, with Degsi and Mick flanking Rob Hatton up top.
The game started at a lively pace with both sides looking to play football from the start. Coeur were deep in Old Xavs territory early on looking for an early breakthough when the move broke down. A quick counter saw a long ball played over the top into the path of the pacy Xavs striker who took a touch and slid the ball into the net to give Xavs the lead within the opening 10 minutes.
Coeur responded well to the concession with some extended periods of pressure, though few clear cut chances were made. Old Xavs were still looking to break in numbers given the opportunity and even with 20 minutes gone, you got the feeling the next goal was going to be crucial. More smart play saw Coeur creating chances down the left and the ball reached Degsi 20 yards out. Degsi took his time and fired a curling effort beyond the reach of the Xavs keeper, only to see it rebound of the crossbar. Rob Hatton was alert and did all he could to fire a right footed volley goalwards as it came back off the bar, but it landed right in the midriff of the prone keeper.
Coeur continued to create chances and some lovely interchanges with Rob, Degs and Mick saw Lynchy teed up. Mick fired a wicked, right footed drive just inches past the left hand upright with the keeper well beaten. Moments later Mick was at it again as he strode onto a pass and swept a left footed effort goalbound, only for it to crash against the base of the right hand post before being scrambled to safety.
Coeur pressed for the equaliser, whilst Old Xavs continued to look dangerous on the counter, though the game reached the break without any further changes to the scoreline.
Sacre Coeur 0 Old Xaverians 1
The second half kicked off with both Derek and Liam Doyle in attendance, whilst Morecambe's Chris Doyle took time out to watch some quality football for a change.
The majority of the early exchanges saw Degsi and Ian orchestrating things for Coeur, whilst Lynchy continued to burst forward to join the attack at will. More quality down the right saw Degsi played in where he nutmegged the last centre half and hared onto it, only to be thwarted by the bravery of the Old Xavs keeper.
It appeared to be just a matter of time before the equaliser came, then the sucker punch struck. In almost mirror image of the first goal, Xavs doubled their lead. A long pass freed the forward who thundered it into the roof of the net to settle the Xavs nerves.
Coeur took this shot clean on the chin but refused to be swayed. The attacking continued with gusto. Rob Hatton almost pulled one back for Coeur when he was played in, in a not disimilar manner to the Xavs goals. He let the ball run across him and lifted it over the advancing keeper, only for it to rebound back of the crossbar, the third time Coeur had hit the woodwork. At this point the Xavs centre half said to Rob, "I don't know how we are going to manage to defend for the rest of this game".
More Coeur pressure produced a set piece from the right where a fabulous ball was floated to the far post where Matty Vaudrey rose highest to thunder a header home and give Coeur the goal that their play had deserved. One very nearly became two as Rob Hatton muscled his way past the defender and prodded the ball goalwards. The keeper had rushed out to meet him and the ball struck the keeper, as did Rob's knee. The keeper's legs buckled, and Rob grabbed his shoulders and helped lower the stricken stopper to th floor, calling for assistance straight away. It was the end of the line for the Xavs number one as he was helped from the field as he tried to dispell the stars from circling around his head. Unbelievably Xavs had a replacement keeper on the bench and they brought him on as their third sub.
With 25 minutes to go Rob Hatton had to be withdrawn through injury and Mick Taylor was also replaced. Darren and Andy were sent onto the field to make an instant impact. It almost paid dividends within minutes as Darren threaded a ball through to Andy who strode goalwards, only to see his shot stopped by a combination of the keeper and defender.
Coeur got an early opportunity to test the new Xavs keeper as a free kick 25 yards from goal was fizzed in by Degsi, but the keeper managed to get a fist to it and punch it away from goal. Xavs had a couple of counter attacks in which two dangerous crosses where whipped in, one of which Mully needed the assistance of Matty to clear the danger.
With 10 minutes to go a quick free kick on the right saw Degsi feed Ste Ally. Ste whipped the ball to the near post, where Ian Jones rose to bullet his header home and level the game.
The last 10 minutes of normal time saw Xavs defending desparately repelling each Coeur attack as if their life depended on it. Coeur suffered a blow late on as Mick Lynch's hamstring gave way on him. He was replaced by Jack Kelly.
End of Normal Time
Sacre Coeur 2 Old Xaverians
The extra time period continued to be in Coeur's favour, with the Xavs keeper making a decent save from another Degsi effort. Half time was reached and the second half saw Andy Pflancer with another great chance as he burst clear and lifted his shot towards the far corner of the net, only for it to be diverted away by the shoulder of the keeper as he made himself big.
Despite the efforts of both sides no further goals were scored so the match ended and the penalty shootout was required.
Full Time (a.e.t)
Sacre Coeur 2 Old Xaverians 2
With Rob, Mick and Lynchy all off the park, Si knew that 3 of his penalty takers were unavailable. Asking for volunteers, he was greeted with 7 hands, allowing him to choose the order of the first 7 penalties.
1. Mully - thrashed in ( 1 - 0 )
Xavs first pen saved ( 1 - 0 )
2. Ste Allison - keeper dives to his left to make the save. ( 1 - 0 )
Xavs score ( 1 - 1 )
3. Degsi - high and hard to the keeper's right ( 2 - 1 )
Xavs score ( 2 - 2 )
4. Ian Jones - smashed high into the net ( 3 - 2 )
Xavs score again ( 3 - 3 )
5. Matty Vaudrey - sends keeper the wrong way ( 4 - 3 )
Xavs send it to sudden death ( 4 - 4 )
6. Rob Phil - Hammers home giving keeper no chance ( 5 - 4 )
Xavs score to Mully's left ( 5 - 5 )
7. Jack Kelly - Blasts it hard to the right, just scraping the outside of the post ( 5 - 5 )
Xavs fire to Mully's left to win the shootout ( 5 - 6 )
An epic match that saw Coeur more than live with their title rivals for 120 minutes. On another day with a touch more luck it could have been Coeur rather than Old Xavs advancing to the next round of the cup.