Youthful Horndean hold their nerve to knock Baffins Milton Rovers out of the Portsmouth Senior Cup on penalties after a thrilling 4-4 draw
Youthful Horndean kept their nerve to progress in the Portsmouth Senior Cup via a penalty shoot-out victory over Baffins Milton Rovers.
The Deans - fielding their under-18 team - converted all of their penalties to claim a 5-4 shoot-out success after a highly entertaining 4-4 draw at Five Heads Park.
The evening was a credit to all the youngsters on show - Baffins also had a handful of teens in their starting XI including first team debuts for full backs Kian Murphy and Kai Davies, a first start for midfielder Owen Pelham and a second start for midfielder Harvey Welham.
Horndean boss Michael Birmingham is a huge supporter of youth and six of his starting XI - Lawrence Cooper, Mackenzie Morgan, Josh Barnden, Zak Brownlie, skipper Evan Harris and Brandon McKinnon - had already tasted first team action in cup ties this term.
Full back Owen Perkins appeared last season, but there were four players - keeper Ryan Mould, centre half Tom Blaimire, right sided midfielder Alfie Stone and forward Isaac Bello - who were handed first team debuts.
The first half was as pulsating a 45 minutes as I’ve seen this season on my travels reporting non-league football for The News from Conference South down to Hampshire Premier League levels.
Horndean could easily have been 4-1 up at one stage - they led 1-0 and 2-1 - but needed a stoppage time leveller from Harris to go in at the interval level at 3-3.
Baffins went ahead again in the second half, but Harris levelled for a second time.
The goal rush began after only five minutes. Welham produced a timely tackle to stop Harris getting on the end of a Stone pass, but conceded a corner. From the flag kick, Baffins failed to clear and the loose ball fell perfectly for centre back Barnden to lash home a low shot from just outside the six-yard box.
Pelham levelled on 10 minutes, firing a shot from just inside the 18-yard box in off the underside of the bar.
Baffins fielded a couple of first team squad regulars in strikers Alex Przespolewski and Rudi Blankson, with centre half Josh Dean and midfielder Stan Bridgeman - a recent signing from Portchester - also in the starting XI.
It was from a Blankson cross that Callum Smith, arriving unmarked at the far post, headed wide on 17 minutes. Sixty seconds later, Deans were ahead again - Brownlie winning possession and McKinnon having the presence of mind to spot teen keeper Bailey Neil well off his line, chipping him from 35 yards.
Harris sent a 25-yarder crashing against the crossbar and the same player was through on goal when Jamie Clark slipped. Neil, though, was out quickly to deflect his shot for a corner.
Baffins, going up the slope, levelled for a second time on 42 minutes, Deans making a hash of clearing Murphy’s left-wing cross to the back post and the lively Pelham - certainly a player to keep an eye on for the future - lashing in his second.
There was still time for two more first-half goals. First, Baffins took the lead when Smith finished off a nice passing move with a low shot. But Deans levelled when Harris’ low shot direct from a free-kick nestled in the bottom corner.
Baffins regained the lead on 57 minutes when Deans keeper Ryan Mould failed to hold a Pelham header and Blankson, standing virtually on the goalline, had a simple task of scoring.
An error from Neil provided the eighth and final goal of normal time six minutes later. A careless pass went straight to Harris, who promptly rounded the keeper and took his time before netting past a covering defender.
Clear chances dried up after that as tiredness unsurprisingly set in and a host of substitutions were made.
The game was played in a good spirit and ref Mike Paintin had a much easier game to control than he did at the weekend, when he was forced to abandon the Hayling v Paulsgrove Hampshire Premier League contest after a series of niggly incidents.
Here, there was hardly a bad foul all evening and Paintin’s two bookings - for Baffins pair Clark and sub Harrison Cable - came in the closing stages.
Onto penalties and the only one of the 10 spot-kicks that was missed was the very first one - Mould diving to his right to push away Smith’s effort.
After that, Joe Warren, Harris, Anthony Reynolds and McKinnon – whose effort went in off the bar - converted Horndean’s first four penalties and Welham, Liam Brewer, Cable and Clark scored Baffins’ next four.
That left the scene clear for Brownlie to stride forward and convert the winning spot-kick, avenging Deans’ 3-0 defeat at the semi-final stage of the 2019/20 Portsmouth Senior Cup, a delayed tie which was played last December.
It was also Horndean’s second win against Rovers in four days, after ending Baffins’ unbeaten Wessex Premier record with a 3-1 success last Saturday.
Huge credit, though, to bosses Birmingham and Shaun Wilkinson for using this game to give youth a chance. The Portsmouth area non-league scene is healthy at the moment and there were players on show in this game who could well end up playing at a higher level than the Wessex League.
Horndean: Mould, Perkins, Cooper, Morgan, Barnden, Blaimire, Stone, Brownlie, E Harris, Bello, McKinnon. Subs used: A Harris, Reynolds, Warren.
Baffins: Neil, Murphy, Davies, Bridgeman, Clark, Dean, Smith, Welham, Przespolewski, Pelham, Blankson. Subs used: Cable, Sharpe, Brewer.