Buntingford Cougars Under11 Whites played out a remarkable cup semi final at Panshanger on Saturday. Here is the match report from a parent. . . .

What a cup game , hard fought, gritty and full of tension from start to finish.

The legend of Josh Ayer must be spreading as Panshanger set up with a flat back four which sat very deep . Deciding to rely on some fine players in attack, they failed to account for the tenacity of these boys and girls in blue and white.

Despite the opposition set up, It fell to Josh again to break the deadlock . Finding himself free of the opposition No.4, he  took advantage of a great through ball from Jacob Robini Brand, and slotted home a wonderful strike This suddenly gave Cougars some belief, and they dug very deep to hold on. Harry Nicholas, Dylan Jelley, Isla Eveliegh and Paddy Mitchell all battled to break up the play in midfield, with Zach Bushell sweeping up all lose edges around the back. Oscar Kennedy in goal had little to do, and this very close game reached the half way point with Cougars ahead.

The second half was much the same, until some uncharacteristic miscommunication between Bushell and Kennedy allowed the opposition striker to nip in between them to score an equaliser. Cougars lifted themselves and worked so tirelessly in every position to take the game to extra time.

In the first half of extra time Oscar excelled and pulled off an amazing save from an opposition corner to hold on to the deadlock. Ben Hume, Toby Weston, Ethan Bliss all pushed and pulled and fought for every ball until the final whistle blew for a penalty shoot out.

Paddy Mitchell, Josh Ayer and Oscar Kennedy bravely accepted the challenge to take the spot kicks. Oscar Kennedy saved the first Panshanger effort before Ayer neatly put away his spot kick and Cougars were ahead . Kennedy got his hands to their second penalty, only to see it go in off the post so the tie was still deadlocked on penalties at 1-1.

Next up was goalie turned striker Kennedy – who scored his own penalty to go 2-1 up before stepping back in goal for final effort from Panshanger. Diving to his left this time, the Cougars guardian got two hands to the Panshanger third penalty and saved for a Cougars WIN.

Kennedy told BBC’s 5Live afterwards “I saw the striker was nervous, and was staring to his left … and I knew he was too nervous to be trying to trick me – and so I dived to save it.

Cougars now look forward to a final against Potters Bar Crusaders.


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