BARRY ATHLETIC 1
PORTHKERRY PANTHERS 1
(Panthers win 5-4 on penalties)
THESE two Barry sides met in the Vale Junior Soccer League Under 13s cup final at Jenner Park, with underdogs Porthkerry Panthers facing the cup holders who had yet to lose a competitive cup match.
Starting brightly and enjoying the majority of the possession, Panthers forced a number of corners that were well defended by a towering Athletic back four. The Panthers were creating chances, with Sam Hopkins, Ben Jones, Bradley Western and Callum Bellemy all causing problems for the Athletic defence.
Panthers' back four of Cory James, Jack Stokes, Adam Davies and Oliver White were in impressive form, allowing only the odd long shot from the Athletic during a dominant first half.
At the other end, Panthers created all sorts of chances, with Joe Mellars scoring from a curling 20 yards effort from just outside the box. Louie Dutton hit the post from a corner before being put clear by Mellars and sending a shot wide and then the latter, put through by Hopkins, saw a shot parried by the exceptional Athletic 'keeper.
The second half saw the Athletic come out fighting; they began to get their passing game going, but without penetrating the Panthers' goal too much. Lloyd Perkins was putting the tackles in and covering every inch of grass.
Athletic grabbed an equaliser halfway through the second half and this resulted in their best spell of the game, forcing two great saves from Panthers' 'keeper Ben Wallace. The introduction of fresh legs in the form of Rhys Everitt and Declan Edwards rejuvenated the Panthers and, as the game wore on, they took control again.
The dreaded extra time came; the Panthers continued to create chances, with Mellars hitting the side netting before two late chances. The first was created by Brad Western who squared the ball to Declan Edwards, whose shot was agonisingly over, and then the Athletic 'keeper produced the save of the match to keep his side level.
With the match being decided on penalties and the scores level at 4-4, Wallace produced a fine save to leave the outcome in the hands of Hopkins. This time last year, he represented Barry Athletic, before a 'big money' move to the Panthers, and his well struck penalty, striking the underside of the bar, proved the winner of a thrilling match.
The game was played in a great spirit, which was epitomised by Joseff Nicholas and the whole of the Athletic boys, who did everything to showcase an exceptional final.
Barry Town manager Gavin Chesterfield presented trophies to all the players and officials, and Panthers' captain Jack Stokes lifted the cup aloft after a gruelling encounter.
The young officials on show were a credit to the Vale of Glamorgan Referees' Association and highlighted the huge amount of young and emerging talent.