Frankie and the Fantastic Four!!
By Mike Skinner
Wantage Dev Progress In Hellenic Challenge Cup
Wantage through to the second round of the Challenge Cup with another good win. The game started brilliantly for Wantage and specifically Frankie Merola. The frontman had a hard time in the press mid-week for missed chances in our last outing, but he silenced the critics after just 5 minutes in spectacular style. Jack Badger challenging the full back well and flicking on, Frankie took one touch to control, opened his body up and volleyed over the keeper from 25 yards, a little bit Peter Crouch-esq. Instantly repaying the managers faith and belief in him. 5 minutes later it could have been 2, Frankie playing a one-two with Jim Glover, working hard in the channel and whipping a great ball across to Jack Badger, who couldn’t get his header on target at the back post.
On 13 minutes, we again countered well from a defensive corner; Badger and Kerby linking up well and threading Owen Shaw who drilled hard and low with his left foot and forced a very good save from the keeper. Our good chances and lead was nearly nullified after 20 minutes when the Kintbury number 11 cut inside from the right onto his left foot and curled a lovely strike towards the top corner but was denied by the crossbar.
Before the half we had another chance to double our lead, Jim Glover and Harry Broad, linking up well down the left hand side, before Jim slipped in Kieran Kerby, who whipped in a good cross to Frankie, who’s powerful header was well saved by the keeper, the ball looped up fell to Owen Shaw, who could only cushion his header back towards the goal, which was excellently cleared off the line by Jake Rowe for the home side.
Wantage started the second half as they finished the first, great battling in the centre of the pitch from Jared Jones and Owen Shaw, the ball breaking kindly to JJ who threaded in Frankie, who took his chance early but drilled over from 20 yards. Just a minute later Owen Shaw dribbled through 4 defenders and sat the keeper down, only to square his pass to a very relieved defender.
Just when we thought all was looking pretty rosy for Wantage and a second goal was inevitable, Kintbury equalised. After winning the ball back high, the left winger crossed well, Harry Broad heading clear at the back post, only for the ball to fall at the feet of the right back, who found his striker well in the box, who smashed in from close range.
Thankfully the lead didn’t last long, Jim Glover again weighting a good through ball to Frankie, who took a touch and drilled hard and low. The keeper made a good save, but Jack Badger was following up, who cut inside and found Kieran Kerby, who squared to Frankie, another shot saved but the rebound fell kindly to the striker, who smashed in to put Wantage back in the lead. And so started an end-to-end finish to the match.
Kintbury pegged us back again after a good break by their left back Alessio, winning the ball back high not for the first time, he dribbled past one and crossed well, the strikers touch and shot was well blocked by Luke Faircloth in his first start for the Green and White Freds, but the follow up fell back at the strikers feet and he made sure with his second attempt, from close range. Jim Glover looked to have gone close with a good touch and shot from 25 yards that dipped wide of the post. Management seemed impressed, but fans on the other side said the keepers did him some favours with a big dive, making the shot look a lot better than it was.
A good high press on the winger from Jack Heggie forced a poor pass between the keeper and defenders, Frankie was sharp onto the mistake and lifted a delicate chip over the outstretched keeper, for what could have been the winner. 10 minutes left, feeling good about the way the game had gone, and a resilient Kintbury side equalised again. Number 11 again causing problems for the home side, beat Heggie and drilled a really good shot in the bottom right bin, Harry Whitehead getting down really well and tipping wide. The resulting corner came all the way through, again the winger free at the back post drills hard and low, again Barry up to the challenge, but this time the ball drops kindly to the centre forward who finished from close range.
The bench were talking about potential penalty takers as we approached the final minutes. There was even a shout of “I’d only give Frankie Man of the Match if he gets a 4th” from one man in the dugout… Well Frankie duly delivered. Calum Pryce, who’s pace had caused problems since his introduction, again outrunning the full back, chopped inside well, probably intending to go alone rather than meaning to pass it but no danger, Jack Heggie’s underlapping run picked up the ball and he drove well into the Kintbury box, an excellent cross into the 6 yard box found who else?! ...François Merola, for his and Wantage’s 4th! The Wantage fans sent into raptures with the late winner, reminiscent of Fergie’s United sides of old!!
A good win against a difficult and determined Kintbury side. First appearances this year for Chris Brind, James Glover, Calum Pryce and Luke Faircloth, all impressing and all showed they have something important to offer this year.
Man of the Match Frankie Merola, not sure about him trying to steal their match ball, but repaid his managers faith, and silenced the doubters with a fine all-round display.