Coalville Overcome Barwell Hoodoo To Earn A Place In Challenge Cup Final
Coalville beat Barwell for the first time since 2014 in dramatic style as a late Dean Freeman header sent the Ravens on their way to a second successive Leicestershire Challenge Cup final.
Opposite ends of the form table and a one sided record in this fixture; Coalville faced a tough task in Barwell on a fresh winter’s evening at Holmes Park, with the Canaries perched in seventh in the NPL when entering the game, boasting eight straight victories over the Ravens.
But it was Coalville who progressed thanks to a set-piece spectacular, with all their goals coming as a result of corners. The Ravens did surrender a two goal lead but found an 87th winner to ensure a return to the venue in May.
One change was made from the eleven that lost 3-1 at home to Shaw Lane last Tuesday, with Jermain Hollis coming in to replace Kyle Dixon.
It took a while for either side to find their groove, with both teams struggling to hold onto the ball in the opening stages. The first chance of note came the way of last year’s winners as Mitchell Piggon snatched the ball from Lee Torr on the right wing before surging into the box and letting a shot off, which was cut out well by Dean Freeman.
The first of the set-piece specials was then served up in the 14th minute. Nathan Watson floated in an inviting corner, which Daniel Creaney flicked goalward when left unmarked, leaving Tom McGlinchey to make sure and nod home from three yards.
A quick response followed from the Canaries as Matt Stenson produced a rasping drive from 30 yards that narrowly avoided the bottom left corner.
Just four minutes after the opener, the Ravens put themselves in control thanks to another top class Watson delivery. This time the Coalville playmaker whipped a ferocious corner into the danger area, which fell to Creaney, who made no mistake with the finish as he powered a right footed effort past Liam Castle from close range.
As Barwell continued to struggle, Stenson’s moments of inspiration looked to be their only route back into the contest. And the attacker had two quick fire chances to do just that, unleashing a long range shot which deflected off Alex Howes and onto the roof of the net, before hooking the ball just over following the resulting corner.
Stenson didn’t spurn a third opportunity in the 37th minute however. The forward hounded down Jake Heath’s lofted through ball and executed a well measured finish, lifting the ball over Matthew Coton and into the top corner on the half volley.
Following the goal, there was a sense that Barwell were edging their way back into the tie, but it was Coalville who had the chance to add another late in the half, with Creaney heading just over from inside the box after a cross from Cleveland Taylor.
Half time came at a good time for the Ravens, who were looking to slam the breaks on a Barwell performance that was slowly beginning to gather pace.
But the break didn’t seem to do much good, with the Canaries re-emerging as the much stronger side despite losing Stenson to injury. It took just minutes for them to threaten an equaliser as Piggon was denied by an excellent Coton save when a low cross found the Barwell striker in the area.
The pressure did eventually tell in the 60th minute as Barwell continued to maintain the same intensity. Eddy Nisevic was responsible for the emphatic leveller, with the full back darting into the box and drilling a shot across Coton and into the far corner.
But the Canaries weren’t satisfied, they’d smelt blood as they continued to commit men forward. This time Coton came up with what would prove to be a pivotal save, pawing away a Brady Hickey strike at the back post which seemed destined for the top corner.
There seemed as if there was only going to be one winner as Nisevic also nearly gained his side the advantage, cutting in on his right before rolling his 18 yard effort narrowly wide of the post.
However, as the game progressed both sides began to hold back, weary of what conceding could mean for their final ambitions. This resulted in a stagnation in play, where neither side created a presentable opportunity.
This was until the 87th minute, when Freeman made himself Coalville’s hero. This time Watson’s corner was deep, meaning Creaney could peel off his marker and direct the ball into the centre where Freeman was on hand to nod the ball past Castle, sparking jubilation amongst Ravens supporters.
Coalville then saw out the remaining minutes with ease, booking a return to Holmes Park as they look to go one better than last time out and return with a trophy in tow.
The Ravens will be looking to translate the cup momentum into league competition on Saturday, when they welcome Lancaster City to the Mander Cruickshank Stadium.