Comber Rec show their class and beat Crumlin Star 2-0 in Border Cup semi-final
Border Cup Semi-Final,
Seaview Belfast, on Wednesday 22nd November 2023,
Final Score: Comber Rec 2 0 Crumlin Star.
Crumlin Star failed to twinkle at Seaview in Belfast in the semi-final against Comber Rec who proved to be the best team on the night with more flowing football especially in the second half writes Jim Masson.
Comber were slightly muted in the first half but Crumlin looked out of kilter and the result was a relatively uneventful goal-less first half.
In the first ten minutes Comber pressed forward and were creating attacking opportunities. Brandon Nelson slipped a useful ball through to Lex Walker that had potential near the goal then defender Robert McVarnock volleyed from the edge of the Crumlin box and was inches wide of the right hand post.
Then Dylan Wilson took a corner and Eliot Wilson hammered it just over the Crumlin top bar.
Up to this point, Crumlin were keeping the Comber front line out from their goal area at a safe distance. Comber were connecting well as a team and Nelson crossed a spot-perfect ball to Elliot Wilson in the Crumlin box but eventually lost the ball under pressure.
Crumlin looked shakey as though they could concede a goal. The anxiety level from the Crumlin dugout were palpable as instructions were fired out across the pitch for them to tighten up.
On 20 minutes, Crumlin’s Kevin Trainor managed to rattle off a volley on target by Comber keeper Corey Pollock who handling the ball well throughout, managed to get it under control.
Simon Hanna tried to lob a long ball over the head of the Crumlin keeper from the half way line as he appeared slightly out of position, but the shot was saved by keeper McNeill.
For the first have hour, Comber looked solid from front to back, and Crumlin looked as though they were standing on quicksand. But then a cross to Crumlin’s Joseph McNeill saw Pollock under pressure for the first time but the shot flew past the post.
As the game tightened up physically, Gaw playing a solid game in midfield, picked up an early yellow card just on 32 minutes.
But Crumlin fought back and could never be written off. Noel Halfpenny close to goal turned sharply and shot at an acute angle close to the Comber goal. The ball flew over the top bar, Comber relieved that their work in the first half was not undone.
The first half was basically uneventful, but the second half turned out to be an entertaining and exciting exhibition – for the Comber fans.
As the second period got underway, it was clear that Crumlin were determined to open the scoring. But Comber stepped up to the plate once again.
Kris Gaw made an excellent intervention to keep one attack alive and Comber eventually won a corner keeping their opponents under pressure.
Minutes later Lex Walker hit a long, powerful volley that was just inches wide of the post. The match was now begging a goal.
It almost came from Francis Nolan as Crumlin broke forward and his volley was headed off the line for a corner by Walker in the net.
Then Crumlin’s Aidan Lillis tried a glancing header that could have worked on a good day into the left hand corner.
(Tumilson was then taken off and Harry Grierson came on itching to open the scoring for Comber.)
On 56 minutes Crumlin head coach Patterson received a yellow card as the pressure cooker was getting ready to explode.
Then after more attacks on the Crumlin goal, they eventually cracked. Brett Conville seized the opportunity and knocked the ball in from the middle of the box past keeper McNeill in the 67th minute.
Comber players and fans were ecstatic and the crowded stadium of fans went wild.
First blood went to Comber in what was an increasing physical game. Crumlin looked as though they had the life-blood sucked out of them, but battled on.
A quick reply saw Lynch launch a cracking low shot at the Comber goal but keeper Pollock dropped onto it comfortably.
Then the roof near came of the stand that the Comber fans were standing as Brett McConville again seized the moment and despite appeals for a handball kept running with the ball onside and backfooted the Crumlin back line.
Conville rounded keeper McNeill and hit confidently into the middle of the net in the 74th minute for his second goal to the roars of the fans. A classic example of always play to the referee’s whistle.
With 16 minutes and extra time, the relief was amazing as the fans erupted once again.
But there has been many a slip twixt cup and lip, and Comber showed their class by holding onto their well-earned lead. It was disappointing for previous champions Crumlin Star, but you can’t win every game and every title all of the time.
Crumlin did have a chance to pull a goal back when Kevin Trainor hit on target but Dylan Wilson’s head was there on the goal line to deny him.
The match ended up with Conville making another great run at pace towards the Crumlin goal but the referee had spotted an offiside and Comber had to settle for 2-0 with no hat-trick for Brett Conville.
This was a bruising game with tempers flaring at times, and hard tackles a-plenty. In the end there was only one team that deserved the win and that was Comber for grabbing their chances.
So Comber Rec, exhausted, bruised but not beaten, have won their way through to two finals – the Border Cup and the Steel and Sons Cup. They are looking to be in great form peaking at the right time.
If they steer clear of injuries over the next couple of weeks in their league matches, they are in with a superb chance – dare I say it ? – of winning the double.
But keep you feet on the ground lads. You have the football. And you have the steel!
Speaking after the match, a delighted Comber manager Gareth McKeown said: “It is just fantastic now to be in two finals. The lads in the team have worked hard and we got there in the end. Brett Conville delivered at the right time.
“It’s great to hear the fans celebrating. Each game is different and we will have to see now how we are going to approach these next two crucial cup finals over the festive period.”
Comber Rec: 1 Corey Pollock (GK) 2 Robert McVarnock 3 Brandon Nelson 4 Stuart Moore 5 Lex Walker 6 Kristopher Gaw 7 Dylan Wilson 8 Simon Hanna (C) 9 Brett Conville 10 Matthew Tumilson 11 Elliot Wilson. Subs: Stuart Hanna 14 Harry Grierson 15 Matthew Gibson.
Crumlin Star: 1 Ciaran McNeill GK 2 Samuel McBurney 3 Aidan McNeill 4 Nial Hawkins 5 Aidan Lillis 6 Joseph McNeill 7 Noel Halfpenny 8 Kevin Trainor 9 Kevin Lynch 10 Francis Nolan 11 B O’Neill. Subs: 12 David Fearon 14 Barry McKervey 16 Stephen Smyth.