Ware Sports 1 - 2 Hadley Wood & Wingate
Hadley Wood & Wingate into Aubrey Cup Semi-Finals
By Andy Gerlis
Hadley Wood and Wingate sent themselves through to the semi-finals of the Aubrey Cup with a 2-1 win away at Ware Sports FC.
With just two players in the squad over the age of 20, Hadley Wood’s young team took to Ware’s 4G astroturf pitch like ducks to water.
The Blues could have had a handful of goals in the first half but nevertheless found themselves 2-0 up by the hour mark courtesy of Ben Andreos and Josh Grantham.
Mitchell Judge pulled a goal back for the hosts before hitting the bar a minute later, but Hadley Wood held on to for a victory that was more comfortable than the scoreline suggests.
Frankie Webb’s men now find themselves in the semi-final of the Aubrey Cup, where their potential opponents could be any one of Standon and Puckeridge, Bovingdon/Bedmond Sport and Social Club (tie to be played March 19th) or current holders Belstone.
Elliot Bailey was handed Hadley Wood’s first chance of the game when Joe Killingback played him in on goal, but goalkeeper Owen Thompson made himself big to deny the striker.
A long range strike from Nick Davey screamed just inches over Hadley Wood’s goal, but that was the be the closest Ross Weinrabe came to being tested in the first half.
Both Andreos and Wilson Chingoka planted chances just over the bar before Charlie Smith smashed a volley high and wide of Weinrabe’s net.
And although Thompson reacted excellently to tip Bailey’s curling shot out for a corner 33 minutes in, he was severely let down by his defence as the set piece was swung in.
Chances to clear the ball were scuffed and it eventually rolled free for Andreos to squeeze a shot under the goalkeeper to put Frankie Webb’s men 1-0 up.
And the striker could have doubled his tally nine minutes later when he met Alex Hadjithemistou’s inch-perfect cross, but just couldn’t control his header and it went over the bar.
The Blues took a slender lead into the break, but it only took 14 minutes of the second half before the scoreline was extended to 2-0.
Grantham bullied his way through Ware’s defence before sidestepping the keeper and, despite the player on the line, rifling a left-footed shot into the net.
But a lapse in concentration nearly allowed Ware to respond immediately.
Within a minute of the goal a weak backpass from Bradley Marriot was collected by Sion Hardy who, with just Weinrabe to beat, contrived to smash his shot wide.
A Killingback free kick brought another excellent save from Thompson as he rose to tip the the ball on to the bar but, despite their dominance, Hadley Wood conceded 71 minutes in.
Judge’s shot from the edge of the box deflected wickedly and looped in to the top corner of Weinrabe’s goal to make it 2-1.
And he could have equalised within a minute, but his driven shot cracked off the crossbar with Weinrabe left stranded.
With 10 minutes left, a perfectly weighted pass from Grantham sent Bailey motoring towards goal but the striker could only find the side netting with his shot.
This was to be the last chance of the match and there was an audible sigh of relief from the Hadley Wood faithful at the final whistle.
Despite the young age of the squad, the players displayed a maturity and confidence far beyond their years.
And this is something which will stand them in good stead for the remainder of a remarkable season that sees them fighting for both the league title and the Aubrey Cup.
Hadley Wood and Wingate:
Weinrabe (GK), Hadjithemistou, Danouah, Chingoka, Marriot, Mafuta, Bailey (Lyttle, 87’), Killingback, Andreos (C) Grantham, Gabsi (Kouroushi, 70’)
Unused Sub: Amon Walton Owen
Man of the Match: Josh Grantham
Referee: Gary Bailey