[T]his week there were three Quarter Finals in Cumberland FA’s Senior County Cup, with six teams looking to join Cleator Moor Celtic in the Semi Finals, who progressed thanks to a 4-0 home win over Pirelli FC the previous week, won by Celtic with good goals from Kieran Maguire, Ryan Hall, Tom Mahone and Callum Birdsall and with a man of the match performance from the Celtic ‘keeper Craig Devine with two fabulous saves denying what looked like two certain Pirelli goals.
On Wednesday evening it was East Cumbria versus West Cumbria when the EBAC Nothern League Division One side Penrith AFC took on Windscale FC, who play in the Wearside League. In advance of the match, Penrith’s manager Kyle May had said that Penrith’s Cumberland Cup campaign did “have to take a back seat” as the Club fights off relegation worries, fifth from bottom in the Division and having been beaten 4-2 at Stockton Town the previous weekend.
Despite the warning, Penrith put out a decent looking team, mixing in a few new names with the existing squad and won this game easily, with Jonny Murray scoring after just two minutes and Connor Shields adding a second for the home side on thirteen minutes.
The goals kept coming, with Windscale’s Stevie Walker adding an unlucky own goal on thirty four minutes, and Murray making it 4-0 just one minute later. Three minutes after that Murray got his hat trick for 5-0 and Penrith made it 6-0 a minute before the half time whistle when Penrith captain Grant Davidson scored.
In the second half Windscale began to get some chances and the game was more even, but the damage was done, and Penrith’s player/manager May headed in for 7-0 on 71 minutes with the final goal of the game, adding the Windscale scalp to the teams the Bonny Blues have beaten in the earlier rounds, Crown Newlaithes and Cockermouth.
On Thursday evening it was current Cup holders Workington Reds against Workington Athletic, pitting the Evo-Stick Premier Division promotion hopefuls against the current Smurfit Kappa Cumberland County League champions in a local derby at Borough Park.
The Reds were having a busy week, with four matches in eight days, and their focus is also on the League as they look to get their play-off place challenge back on track after a recent wobble in form.
A Tuesday night 2-1 win over Marine in the Integro League Cup thanks to two Nathan Waterston goals had restored confidence, but co-manager Lee Andrews had to play a team primarily made up of his young talent, but with some older heads in the mix to steady the ship at Borough Park for this tie and a chance for players like Jamie Mellen and Tom Fowler to feature in the starting eleven.
From the off Athletic made it clear they were going to be a challenge and despite the two Reds’ youngsters, Leo Holliday and Sheldon Mossop, attacking Paul Benson’s defence on the wings, the visitors held firm and there were no real chances and Athletic were very quick on the counter attack with Ash Kelly, Greg Quayle and Mark Messenger constant threats and Reds’ ‘keeper Tom Fowler had to pull off two outstanding saves to keep his side in the match.
Messenger then hit the post, Kelly shot inches wide and had a shot blocked by Gari Rowntree, and Red’s young defender Cam Harker managed to force Gareth Brunton to head wide of the post as the tide turned in Athletic’s favour, and they were desperately unlucky not to score.
The Reds had their chances, and Ben MacDonald fired a shot over the Athletic crossbar and had a shot blocked by James Bryden in the Athletic nets, but It was 0-0 at half time and Athletic had the edge, and certainly more chances on goal, meaning it was a busy night for Rowntree, Harker, Joe Hetherington and Dan Wordsworth in the Red’s defence.
Andrews, who had named himself a a sub, brought on Jordan Holt for the second half and Holt had an immediate impact, setting up Scott Allison for the games only goal, a neat finish past Bryden on 48 minutes.
But this game was far from over, with Kelly making a number of excellent attacking runs for Athletic, and as the game entered the last 15 minutes, Quayle fired a shot over the crossbar and man of the match Fowler pulled off another good save from Brunton.
With eight minutes to go, Athletic brought on their prolific goal scorer Matt Perry who had been stuck on the bench due to illness, and he made an immediate difference but couldn’t get the vital equaliser, and the game ended as a close 1-0 win for the Reds, but with more injury worries for Andrews, with Sam Joel pulling up in the warm up and Holt off after just ten minutes.
And on Saturday, it was the last of the Quarter Finals, an all Smurfit Kappa Premier Division clash between Aspatria and Netherhall, played at St Mungos Park.
Aspatria were beaten finalists in the 2015-2016 Cup, losing out 4-1 to Workington Reds, and are having an excellent season, second and unbeaten in the Cumberland League (and had beaten Netherhall twice) and were having a fine run of form. In contrast, Netherhall, once Cumberland County football top dogs, are now the basement side in the Premier Division in a tight relegation battle, with just one win from eleven games – although the Maryport lads have reached the Quarter Final stage of the Cup for the last five years on the trot and were runners up to Carlisle Utd in 2014-15.
The Aspatria management had been at Borough Park on the Thursday evening, and knew that this year’s Cup can be full of near surprises, but this one was a real surprise. Aspatria opened the scoring with a goal from Sean Law, but the visitors walked away with a 3-1 win thanks to goals from Jamie Weir and an Ethan Weir brace and a great win for Netherhall.
So the final mix is Netherhall, Cleator Moor, Penrith AFC and Workington Reds, The Semi Final draw is on BBC Cumbria at 18.00 on Friday 2nd March, with a repeat of last years Workington Reds v Penrith surely on the cards.