Match number: 2536
Weysiders Reserves were drawn at home on Saturday for the Guildford & Woking Alliance Invitation Cup semi-final against the division 5 runners-up, Parkside United Reserves. Mid-table Weysiders had met Parkside twice in the league with a draw and single goal defeat reflecting the narrow difference between the sides on a head-to-head basis.
Weysiders had a squad of 16, with a late call up for Jordan Stephen following Marian Radu's withdrawal that morning due to a diary clash with his hairdresser and Nick Burt being unavailable.
Parkside started the stronger team but the well organised and disciplined Weysiders back five (four defenders and goalkeeper Jesus Robles) laid good firm foundations for the match by robustly and successfully defending the consistent pressure by Parkside on the Weysiders penalty box in the first 20-25 minutes. The tireless work by the Weysiders midfield four of Niklas Redhead, Ian Carson, Matthew Du Gay and Thom Doggett, on what was a hot and sunny day on the large pitch one at Shalford Park meant that the visitors were denied any direct frontal attacks on the Weysiders goal and had to attack down the flanks. Here they had little joy against both the Weysiders full backs Russell Minns and Mark Sydorin, who both had exceptional games, not only by restricting any crosses or runs into the penalty area but also made themselves available for the breaks as and when they occurred.
The second part of the first half was more of a midfield battle but with Parkside having the better of possession and Weysiders the more dangerous breaks.
It was 0-0 at half-time, with the crowd having built up to more than thirty in expectation of a entertaining second half, one where substitutions would prove to be key.
Weysiders player-manager Mark Stephen made a decisive change at half time, giving the front two Weysiders strikers of Gino Raccuglia and Chris Murch a well-earned rest after their first half had been spent covering large amounts of ground but having to live on scraps of possession and the occasional break. A replacement experienced twin strike-force with a total age of 98 years (a club record? And near double the previous combined strikers’ ages) was brought on and provided the break through for Weysiders. Playing close together, the two strikers, Roland Hockin and Dom De Piano, combined to create a number of chances including the one that created the only goal of the game. De Piano, picking the ball up wide left, passed inside to Hockin who lashed a shot round the defender which came off the crossbar. With no goal-line technology to decide whether it crossed the line before rebounding out, the referee played on, but good anticipation by Thom Doggett in sprinting up from his right midfield position enabled him to smartly knock in the rebound past the keeper to make it 1-0.
Parkside were stung into life and played a good ten minutes to try to get back into the game. Weysiders back five still played with structure and composure, effectively marshalled by the centre-back pairing of Jack Shaw and Mark Stephen, ensured that they had no joy, with Parkside's only likelihood of success looking to be set pieces or dead-ball kicks.
Weysiders’ depth of substitutes then came on - Matt Hockin, Michael McDonnell and Jordan Stephen - to freshen up the tired legs in midfield, with Weysiders striker Raccuglia coming back on to replace Hockin who had burnt out after 20 minutes.
Weysiders were then awarded a penalty which should have made the game safe, but the kick by Michael McDonnell (the only Weysider player wearing astro boots rather than moulded) unfortunately came off of the crossbar and back out.
This then set the scene for Parkside to make a final push to try to take the game into extra time. This was not to be as Weysiders ended the game as they started, with the back five absorbing the pressure, Jesus Robles dominating his area, and the midfield substitutes continuing the work rate previously undertaken by their departed colleagues.
Credit should go to Weysiders Captain Jack Shaw who maintained composure and control when a couple of Parkside players let their frustrations get the better of them in the last five minutes by switching to an overtly physical game.
This was a great team performance by the full 16-man squad, all fully playing their individual and collective parts. There was a good structure and organisation with an emphasis on passing.
Parkside played well but lacked the variation and ability to change the set up when Plan A was not working. This was a marked difference to Weysiders who, while maintaining a solid back five, had the depth and variety in squad to change things and pose different questions at different times elsewhere on the pitch.
Well done to the squad and a long overdue Cup Final for the Club to look forward to.