UEA Rovers win National Christian Cup semi place
UEA Rovers secured a coveted semi-final place in the prestigious National Christian Cup with a disciplined 1-0 quarter-final win over Welwyn St Mary’s from the Herts Christian Football League.
Flying the flag for the Norfolk Christian Football League, the UEA Christian Union team, booked their semi-final spot courtesy of a scrappy goal midway through the first half from Jonathan Airey to triumph against a skilful Welwyn side.
Rovers were without their formidable top goal scorer Jonny Lim, who claimed the winner in the last round, but started stronger of the two teams.
The wide Sloughbottom Park pitch was used to good effect by the students, as Rovers looked to provide for their pacy wide-men at every opportunity.
The home side had a number of golden opportunities to take the lead, but continued to squander them.
Spree had a half-volley well saved, whilst Airey should have done better with a one-on-one that harmlessly dragged wide.
The Norfolk team almost paid for their wastefulness - only a point blank save from the Rovers’ goalkeeper Savage kept the scores level after a first time volley from a well worked set-piece.
This shock served as a warning side, as Rovers eventually got their just rewards.
A long throw caused mayhem in the Welwyn box, and as the defenders desperately tried to clear it was Airey who was best placed to atone for his earlier miss and force Rovers into the lead just before the break.
Welwyn had the lion’s share of possession in the second half, but were finding the Rovers defensive line hard to break down.
Welwyn did have one final chance at the death. After a sequence of corners failed to produce a goal their striker saw his effort cannon of the crossbar, much to the relief of the Rovers faithful who had turned out in force.
As the referee’s whistle brought the game to a close, Rovers celebrated surviving Welwyn’s crescendo of chances in the final 15 minutes, but on reflection were deserved victors.
Rovers now travel to either Liverpool or Wirral in the semi-finals on March 29 as they look to add another chapter to what has been an enthralling National Cup story.
UEA team manager, Charlie Savage said: “When we entered the National Cup we just wanted to get past the first round, so to get to the semi-final surpasses all our expectations. The past two rounds were tight, cagey affairs - victories that give me a lot of pleasure as a manager as they both showed the determination of my players.
“We got to the semi-final of the National Trophy two seasons ago, but were ultimately denied the chance to play at The Valley, Charlton Athletics' stadium. We have five survivors from the team that lost that game, and that makes us even more motivated to ensure history does not repeat itself.
“Arrangements have already begun in our preparations for that Liverpool trip, and we'll make sure that when we come back to Norwich we can be proud of our efforts, and perhaps have a final to look forward to.”
Norfolk Christian Football League vice-chairman Jim Green, said: “It was very exciting to see UEA progress in a game that was credit to all concerned. It was a highly competitive match played to the end in the right spirit watched by a good number of supporters of both sides. We wish them well in the semi final.”