THE FA SUNDAY CUP
Gym United 2
Matt Morton revealed he had to give his Gym United team-mates a ‘right rollicking’ at half-time to spur them on to make history for the county by reaching The FA Sunday Cup final.
The Premier Logos Bury Sunday Football League side had ridden their luck in the first 45 minutes in the Midlands at Soilihull Moors’ ATG Stadium, despite Tanner Call hitting the post early on, and fell behind soon after the re-start to Tom Mooney’s free-kick.
But player-manager Morton got the perfect response from his players with a blockbuster of a strike from striker Andrew Wood and a thunderous header from Nathan Clarke to seal their progress against the winner’s of March 25’s re-arranged tie between last year’s finalists: holders Hardwick Social or New Salamis.
“There were a few rollickings (at half-time), shall we say, that were dished out as a couple of people were not doing the jobs I expect of them in a Gym United shirt,” said Morton, one of 11 Thetford Town players in the 16-man squad.
“And second half, credit where credit is due, they went out there and turned it round.
“It was a typical Gym United performance for me.
“We went from counter-attack football at the right time to soaking up pressure and then bang, hitting them on the break again.
“The second goal was a bit uncharacteristic for us, but then that is what Nathan Clarke can bring to the side: aerial ability. And they left him unmarked and if you do that with him, the likelihood is it is going in the back of the net.
“We closed up shop after that and we could, in fairness if legs weren’t so tired from the work-rate, we could have got a third or fourth as they were throwing bodies forward.
“Credit to Mayfair as well, I think they are the best side we have played in four times of entering it.
“They were superb from front to back.”
Of Wood’s strike, which followed his brace for Thetford the previous day at Newmarket, Morton said: “That finish for the first goal was one of the best I have ever seen, with his left foot as well.
“You need moments like that if you are going to win a competition.”
Gym went into the game with six of their players having played Saturday games, while none of Mayfair’s side were in action, due to wet weather postponements.
Duncan McNally got the nod over Will Viner between the sticks and was much the busier goalkeeper in the first half, pulling off three eye-catching saves, though the Suffolk side came within a lick of paint of taking an early lead with the game’s first shot.
Ex-Bury Town man Call picked up a long goal-kick in-between the lines eight minutes in and drove to the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a right-foot shot that came back off the right-hand post.
It was mostly Huyton-based side, also on their record run in the competition, who were asking the questions and McNally had to dive to his right to push away Mooney’s free-kick before parrying away from Jamie Henders soon after.
Just after the half-an-hour mark he clawed out a curling effort from Conor Roberts that was heading for the top corner, while Jack Brame saw a header deflected wide of the post in a rare chance at the other end.
Mayfair’s Alex Woodcock drilled a low effort wide of the far post from a good position before McNally tipped over a corner caught by the wind.
The deadlock was broken less than four minutes after the re-start when McNally was penalised for picking up what was judged to be a pass-back from the wing from Morton and Mooney rifled an unstoppable free-kick from seven yards into the roof of the net.
Gym mounted a quick response though and were level just four minutes later when they worked the ball from right to left for striker Wood, who unleashed a thunderbolt with his left from 20 yards that flew into the top left-hand corner.
The Suffolk side immediately gained confidence and Brame saw an angled drive beaten away by Josh Molloy for a corner while Wood’s header from Bailey’s delivery was turned away.
Gym continued to build their momentum, with Clarke sending a header over from a corner before they took the lead in the 72nd minute when the same player broke away from his marker from a Bailey right-wing corner and thundered his central header beyond Molloy.
Mayfair came close to levelling things up straight after, with substitute Luke Stephens lifting an effort into the side-netting when clear while McNally came to his side’s rescue in the 82nd minute, coming out to block a quickly taken free-kick. Gym handled late pressure well thereafter and managed to break away at the other end several times without hitting the target before bring loudly cheered off the pitch by the coach-load of travelling supporters.
GYM UNITED: McNally 8, Bond 7, Morton 7, Clarke (c) 8, Jackson 7, Bailey 8, Bolton 8 (White 85’), Brame 7, Melanson 7, Call 7, Wood 8 (Proctor 85’). Unused subs: Viner (gk), McIntosh, Robinson.
Free Press Man of The Match: Duncan McNally. Without him they would not have made the final.
• Log on to www.buryfreepress.co.uk to watch our post-match videos.
• Gym remain fighting for five trophies and have their re-arranged Suffolk Sunday Cup semi-final with Kitchener Taveners at AFC Sudbury on Sunday (2.30pm).