Football can be a cruel game at times. So it was on Tuesday night as, in front of a bumper crowd, Prescot Cables two-year reign as Liverpool Senior Cup Winners came to the cruellest of cruel endings where it all began, at Volair Park.
Such was the excitement locally in the build up to the game that kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes in order to get everyone who wanted to see the game inside the ground. The one thousand, two hundred people who manged to get into Volair Park were treated to a high energy but tense cup final between a National League North team full of full-time professionals and Cables, who were not ready to give up their trophy without a fight, and matched their opponent blow for blow for 90 minutes.
Cables were initially the better of the two sides and had several good chances to take the lead in the opening exchanges. Matty Hamilton, and most of the ground, thought he had scored inside the opening minute. A clever free kick from Luke Griffiths was lifted into the Winger and his curling first time shot was curling into the bottom left hand corner of the Southport goal until visiting goalkeeper Josh Tibbetts somehow got a hand to it and tipped it around the post. Hope Street was rocking.
Prescot’s Luke Griffiths dominated the midfield in the opening half and his long range shot tested Tibbetts again; the youngster having beaten three defenders before striking for goal. Josh Klein-Davies was denied what the home side felt was a clear penalty when his shot hit a Southport defender, ‘play on’ said the referee. This injustice seemed to galvanise the Welshman who was chasing and pressuring both visiting centre halves. When the ball went back to Tibbetts in the Southport goal, it was Klein-Davies applying the pressure and forcing error after error. After beating the keeper on one occasion, neither he, nor Hamilton was able to force the ball over the line, both seeing their shots cleared. Josef Faux also had two good chances to give Cables the lead, but saw his efforts go narrowly over the bar or saved by Tibbetts.
The visitors were beginning to get a foothold in the game having ridden their luck in the opening twenty minutes. It was former Cables crowd favourite Morgan Homson-Smith who had Southport’s first and arguably best chance of the half. His free kick from the edge of the area forced Ollie Taylor into parrying the ball to safety before the danger was cleared. Southport would also hit the bar with a thunderous free kick, yet otherwise, the home side were much the stronger side going into the break and were duly applauded off the pitch by the appreciative Cables faithful.
The second half saw both sides press for a winner, yet the two defences remained resolute. Ollie Taylor stood tall to save from Dion Charles while Griffiths and Hamilton were both creating chances and causing the Southport back line problems. Griffiths, in particular, had an excellent chance to give Cables the lead on 77 minutes. Klein-Davies was instrumental again as his flick inside was met by the onrushing Griffiths who was only able to fire his shot over the bar. If either side looked the more likely to score in the closing stages, it was going to be Cables.
Alas, it was not to be, and with the scores somehow level at nil-nil after 90 minutes it was straight to the lottery of a penalty shootout.
In front of the North West Roadshow stand which was packed to the rafters and hugely partisan, both sides would score their first penalties, then miss their second. Home goalkeeper Ollie Taylor got down low to his right to pull off a fine save to save the Sandgrounders’ final spot-kick.
With the scores tied at 3-3 after five kicks each, the Final went into sudden death. Jack Lenehan saw his spot kick smash against the post and back out again. Hope Street held its breath, it crossed its fingers, it was not to be… Southport scored to end a magnificent two-year reign.
Cables XI: Taylor, Cooper, Edgar, McCulloch, Coyne, Conte, Griffith, Lenehan, Hamilton, Klein-Davies, Faux.
By Richard Tigwell