Goals from Rob Levett and Ben Heffernan, one in each half, sent Iden marching into the semi final of the Birchwood Cup, beating unbeaten league leaders St Leonards Social 2-1 at Tilkein on Saturday. A squad lacking in depth meant manager Chip Winton started despite a groin injury, with veteran Alec Tiltman (64) and stand-in keeper Timothy Paul Oakman making the subs bench. Winton set about his task, ordering his troops to battle and battle they did verbally, physically and with the football.
The team stood strong, encountering the barrage of abuse from on and off the pitch. Social forced the first save, a decent low shot from Dom Cruttenden tipped away from the focussed Shane Ridgers. Some tasty involvements resulted in a booking for midfield general Darren Warne for retaliation before Jake Bryant sent Levett on his heels, easing through the Social defence and beating the keeper at his near post. 1-0 Iden. Bryant worked tirelessly and consistently broke down any threat from the midfield maestro Brett Patten. Social looked suspect in defence and another goal was on the cards.
The goal that came was an equaliser, a tap in for the home side from winger Ricki Mathews, 1-1. Iden had a really good chance before half time – an indirect free kick in the 18-yard box that, between them, Sam Cooper and Chris Gould made a complete hash of. Manager Winton was highly “impressed off”!
An interesting team talk row, handbags, kisses and lots of swearing inspired Iden as they started the second half brightly. Cooper left the field lame and was replaced by Kyran Wall, who instantly made an impact, running at the Social defence with pace and trickery. Both defences where quality in the second period, with few chances for either team. Captain Tom Harris was cheered nutmegging former Iden player Cruttenden before Iden needed a forced change with Winton being replaced by reserve goalkeeper Oakman. Social had two glorious chances but Ridgers, making a fantastic double save, kept them out – then Man of the Match Luke Willis saved off line following an exquisite lob over Ridgers.
With five minutes remaining the impressive substitute Wall tied his marker up in knots before unleashing a shot that smashed the post. Was that the chance gone? With 90 seconds of regular time remaining before extra time and Iden having possession with a goal kick, the ball fell to Oakman who turned on a dustbin lid, fooling two Social midfielders in the process, passing to Warne who sent Ben Heffernan through. With a defender to beat he nuts him before bending the ball into the top corner, sending his team into raptures. Heffernan celebrated with a cartwheel and two back flips with pike!
Iden pulled off a shock win, but very much deserved. Heffernan was quality once again; Jake Bryant completely bossed the midfield; and all three defenders were faultless – so there were many choices for the man of match award that Willis received. Iden need Justin Wall, Liam Cobley and Big Frank back next week for the home game against current champions Hollington.
Iden team: Ridgers, Willis, Wilson, Harris, Winton(Oakman), Warne, Bryant, Gould, Levett, Cooper(Wall), Heffernan
Sub not used: Tiltman