The Semi Finals of the Middlesex FA Veterans’ Cup were contested on Sunday last, 13th February. Our roving team of Chris Benn (photographer) and Jim Taylor (reporter) chose to cover the game between Shire United Veterans and Rayners Lane Veterans, which was contested at Spelthorne Sports FC.
Shire United Veterans had reached the Semi Finals of the competition by winning away matches against Hillingdon Abbots Senior Sunday Vets 1 by 10-2 in Round 1 and West London Casuals Vets by 5-0 in Round 2. They received a walk-over in the Quarter Final, as Brentford United Vets could not raise a team.
Rayners Lane Veterans drew a bye in Round 1 and then won home matches 3-1 against London Turkish Masters Vets in Round 2 and 2-1 against London Lions Vets A in the Quarter Final.
The match, played on a sombre, cold and windy morning, was fortunately, skilfully contested and very entertaining. Both sides contributed to the entertainment but the final score of 5-3 to Shire United slightly flattered Rayners Lane.
Shire United made a perfect start by scoring in the 3rd minute, when Mark Bitmead volleyed home a cross from Blieu Huskinson.
Shire United go one up through Mark Bitmead (out of picture)
Rayners Lane mounted an attack and a well struck shot by Adam King was palmed away by Shire custodian, Dean Wells. Then, a defensive mix-up allowed Shire to double their lead in the 13th minute, when Matthew Graves robbed the keeper and netted.
Matthew Graves nets Shire United's second goal
Shire United now proceeded to dominate the match. Rayners Lane keeper, Ian Palace saved low down from Mark Bitmead’s angled drive. A Chris Evans header, from a free kick, was just wide. Nicky Bishton headed a corner kick against the bar. A four man move ended with James Woods driving low past the post.
In a rare Rayners Lane attack, Adam King made a good run up the left and forced a corner. The kick, by David Lawrence, was well taken under pressure by keeper, Dean Wells.
Shire United scored a good third goal in the 40th minute. Mark Bitmead made a run, cut in and fed Kulbir Sehgal, who touched the ball to James Woods, who netted.
James Wood (16) scores Shire's third
Rayners Lane pulled a goal back in the 42nd minute. Neil Russell-Smith made a run into the box and was tripped. David Lawrence sent the keeper the wrong way with his spot kick.
David Lawrence of Rayners Lane scores from the penalty spot
Shire restored their three goal advantage on the stroke of half time. Mark Bitmead hit a post with a free kick and James Woods buried the rebound.
James Wood (16) nets Shire's fourth goal
Half time score: Shire United 4 Rayners Lane 1
The second half was more closely contested but Shire United remained firmly in control. A rally by the visitors, in the closing 15 minutes, made the final score more respectable.
Shire United created several good openings. Mark Bitmead, Matthew Graves, Kulbir Sehgal, Ryan Blake and James Woods were all prominent in some incisive moves. Rayners Lane keeper, Ian Palace turned a piledriver from Kulbir over his bar and made further good saves from Matthew, Ryan and Mark.
Shire's Ryan Blake (6) tests Ian Palace
A defensive error presented Rayners Lane with their second goal in the 77th minute. Neil Russell-Smith capitalised on the home keeper fumbling a back pass.
Neil Russell-Smith nets Rayners Lane's second goal
Mark Bitmead netted from an angle, following a clever dummy and cross-field ball by Leon Solomon, to make the score 5-2 for Shire.
Mark Bitmead about to strike Shire's fifth goal
Rayners Lane created some more scoring chances. John Ellis’s shot was saved by Dean Wells and Adam King blasted over the bar. They were eventually rewarded, during added time, when David Lawrence directed a first time shot low into the corner of the Shire net.
David Lawrence (10) hits Rayners Lane's third goal
Referee Reuben Simon controlled the match with his customary efficiency.
Final Score: Shire United 5 Rayners Lane 3
SHIRE UNITED: Dean Wells, Billy Murphy, Mark Elms, Nicky Bishton, Ryan Blake, Aaron Oakes, Mark Bitmead, Matthew Graves, Leon Solomon, Chris Evans and James Woods.
Substitutes (rolling substitutions are employed in this competition): Kulbir Sehgal, Blieu Huskinson and Simon Curran.
RAYNERS LANE: Ian Palace, Graham Small, Gaston Guei, Marcellus Carayol, Adam King, Danny Bartley, John Ellis, Eilias Maroun, Craig Hepworth, David Lawrence and Neil Russell-Smith,
Substitutes: Steve Stuch, Melvin McDermott, Jaspon Phull, Alex Cestro and Jess Bromilow.
REFEREE: Reuben Simon ASSISTANT REFEREES: Joe Alborough & Lloyd Howard.
In the other Semi Final, Middlesex Wanderers AFC won 7-0 away to Shene Old Grammarians Vets. The date and venue for the Final will be confirmed in due course.
As always we give our thanks to Chris & Jim who have been out in less than favourable weather over the past couple of weeks making sure that our Cup matches get the coverage they deserve. They have selected their favourite images which are shown throughout the report, alongside this Chris has kindly shared a full album of imagery with us.
Chris & Jim's Picks
Full Album Courtesy of Chris Benn