[T]his was a Cumberland County Cup game that Keswick could have won, would have won and should have won – if only they could have got the ball in the back of the net.
This years premier county trophy attracted an entry of 36 teams from across the county, and this preliminary round pitted eight teams against each other – and Westmorland league champions Keswick, and Cockermouth, who went into this game as Premier Division leaders in Smurfitt Kappa Cumberland County league, probably would have both hoped for softer opponents. The ‘big guns’ including Workington Reds, Penrith AFC, Cleator Moor Celtic, Northbank, Carlisle City and League Two’s Carlisle United all avoided the tricky first round with byes.
Injuries, holidays and the last week of the cricket season left manager Eddie Thomson with a severely depleted squad. Both first team goalkeepers (Lee Meddings and Dan Gaskell) and striker Richard Bannister and midfielder Ben Jefferson on cricket duties, Chris Rowlely injured and Richard Bell away, Thomson had to raid the Reserves for players, which in turn meant the Reserves had to call off their game at Dent, with Thomson bringing in Cameron Ball, Dan Abbot and Mike Graham for the first team’s game.
Keswick started brightly and dominated the first half. It was all one way and a near siege on the Cockemouth goal.
Tom Atkinson, the newly returned Declan Robinson, Dan Abbot and Jamie Little all had repeated chances on Cockermouth keeper Liam Irving’s goal through good, strong attacking play, and Stevie Hindmarch had a goal disallowed for offside after 14 minutes.
Minutes after that, Dan Abbot toe punted the ball at the gaping Cockermouth goal but this led to another fine saved by Irving, and the Cockermouth keeper then made a brilliant save from Atkinson 5 minutes later.
The only glitch was on 30 minutes when defender Lewis Horsley was badly injured in a fine defensive tackle – and the Cockermouth claims for a penalty were soon subdued when both teams realised Lewis, an ex Cockermouth player, was in pain, and the ambulance had to be called for his dislocated shoulder.
The reliable Alfie West came on, and Keswick kept their shape and kept attacking with Atkinson particularly effective on the wing, but despite good attempts by Declan Robinson and a well saved header from Stuart Dowson, the ball seemed to go everywhere but the back of the net. In response Cockermouth managed just one good shot on goal in the first half and stand in keeper Anthony Stafford did a fine job behind the Keswick defensive line when he was called on.
The second half should have been more of the same. But Cockermouth worked their way back into the game, brought on Ed Gate, and began to look more dangerous on the break. Cockermouth’s hard work began to pay off as they began to put together some useful moves forward. Still, their first goal from Brian Straughton was against the run of play, but was a simple knock in from a Gate’s cross was enough. 1-0 to Cockermouth on 60 minutes.
Cockermouth’s second goal was a near solo effort from the ever handy Connor Hammell, who attacked down the left wing, ran at the goal and swerved past the Keswick defence, slotting in a the ball past Stafford on 75 minutes. With 15 minutes to go this was not good news for Keswick.
The home team clawed back a goal with 5 minutes to go through substitute Graham’s fine strike, and it was going to be a tight finish. As the game moved towards its close, Stevie Hindmarch had two more good efforts blocked by Irving, there was a shot that rebounded of the Cockemouth post and Cameron Ball was beginning to cause some real problems for the Cockermouth defence – and a Keswick goal seemed so close.
With just 3 minutes to go, an attacking Tom Atkinson was seemingly pushed forwards by Cockermouth’s No 6 on a clear goal scoring run, and although no foul was awarded by referee as he felt the winger had tripped over the ball, Atkinson’s remonstrations with the referee earned him a straight red card for dissent – a new approach that is clearly going to be something Keswick need to focus on in future games as referees take a harder line in policing the game.
Now down to 10 men – that was really it for the home side. So a 2-1 defeat in a game that was there to be won by the home side, and Keswick are out of a prestigious cup they reached the semi finals of last year.
In the other County Cup games, Wearside League’s Windscale hammered Penrith Royal from the Westmorland League Division III 14 – 0 midweek, and newly promoted Westmorland League II contenders Eden Thistle narrowly lost at home at Sheepmount Stadium to Smurfitt Kappa Cumberland League Division One hopefuls Bransty Rangers 3-4, with the Bransty goals from Kyle Jenkins, Michael Garroway and two from Stewart O’Pray.
The game between Whitehaven Miners, who play in the Smufitt Kappa Premier League, and Braithwaite, who play in the Westmorland League Division II, was called off due to a waterlogged pitch.
Referee: Alan Charters. Assistant Referees: Trevor Bethwaite and Stephen Donald
Cumbria Crack Man of the Match: Liam Irving