A full-strength Beechfield squad entered this fixture with mixed emotions, having recently earned promotion to play at this level, but also having had their first taste of defeat last week. They faced a Barr Hill team that they’d played three times last season, winning two and losing one, with the score being 3-2 on each occasion. Therefore, a close match was anticipated in the Hurricanes’ first Challenge Cup match of the season.
However, the players had clearly reacted well to last week’s defeat as they dominated the early exchanges against a strong, physical Barr Hill team who had to work hard to avoid conceding an early goal. However, the early pressure eventually paid off in the eleventh minute, as a smart exchange between Alfie Rostron and Dillan Caldwell put Alfie clean through on goal, where he fired home into the bottom right corner, beyond the despairing dive of the home goalkeeper.
This inspired a flurry of chances for the visiting team, who continued to control the rest of the first half. First, Henry Errington hit a vicious shot from distance that the opposition ‘keeper just managed to get his fingertips to, then Oliver Hall forced an equally good save with another great effort. However, after the second of these chances, Alfie Rostron was on hand to turn in the rebound and double his personal tally, and the Hurricanes lead.
Just a minute later Alfie almost made it a quick-fire hat-trick as his shot drifted narrowly wide, and moments after that, following excellent football between Henry Errington, Oliver Hall and Dillan Caldwell, Alfie Rostron rolled another chance agonisingly across the face of the Barr Hill goal and just wide of the far post.
The Hurricanes were not to be denied for much longer though as, following more intricate inter-play between Henry Errington and Dillan Caldwell, Alfie Rostron fired home from close range for his third goal of the morning, and his fourth hat-trick in just eight games! Not satisfied with this impressive feat, as the half drew to a close, Alfie Rostron bagged yet another goal after latching on to a long throw-in, showing some great footwork in the area before hammering home to give the visiting team a deserved 4-0 lead at the break.
The coaching duo of Ben Robinson and Glenn Whitehead had nothing but praise for their charges at half time, and they even had the opportunity to rest some of their strongest performers as they headed into the second half. This allowed the home team to get back into the match and they began to pose a threat on the counter-attack. Fortunately, Fabio Figueiredo was in fine form at the back and managed to clear any danger that the visitors were put under, particularly with a number of confident defensive headers.
When Barr Hill did eventually manage a meaningful attempt at goal, Hurricanes’ goalkeeper Oliver Dalton-Bunker was alert enough to make a diving save to protect his clean sheet. This seemed to frustrate the Hearts, which led to a few unsavoury incidents where Beechfield players (especially Joshua Whitehead, Oliver Hall and Henry Errington!) were brought down. Thankfully the Beechy players showed their resilience as they bounced back up (even when the players who had fouled them had a teenage-style strop and refused to shake hands properly?!)
As the game wore on, the Hurricanes continued to dominate, with Amaan Khan and Joshua Whitehead winning the battles in midfield, and Oliver Williams and Jamie Maher making dangerous runs forward. Daniel Robinson and Dillan Caldwell both had good efforts well saved by the in-form Hearts’ goalkeeper, but Daniel would not be denied for much longer, as he managed to get onto the end of an excellent cross from Jamie Maher to score his fourth goal of the season and put the visitors 5-0 ahead.
There were further chances for Daniel Robinson, Jamie Maher and Oliver Hall who all went close to extending the lead even further, which would have been no more than they deserved, but the home ‘keeper made some great saves (with all parts of his body!) and the woodwork was also rattled on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, the Hurricanes seemed to take their foot off the gas, sensing that the game was won, and Barr Hill nipped in to score a late consolation goal.
However, not wanting to take the gloss off a completely dominant performance, Beechfield sprung back into action to score the final goal of the contest. Man of the match Amaan Khan whipped in one of his trademark corners and Alfie Rostron was on hand to hit home a bullet header with his fifth goal of the game and his twenty-second of the season. Henry Errington went close to adding another goal in the final minutes but again forced a superb save from the opposition ‘keeper, who had single-handedly given the score-line some respectability for the well-beaten Barr Hill side.
After the match Hurricanes’ manager Ben Robinson said “Top, top, top performance today, I'm absolutely buzzing the way the lads set up today and showed great character and determination from the get-go! We applied everything we've been doing in training, from early balls through to Alfie and keeping possession to working hard to get the ball back. A very dominant performance in midfield, and individual performance from Fabio to clear any danger that managed to get through. We were such a threat in wide areas too going forward and working hard to get back and help defend any counter attacks. That’s the best first half of the season so far, and we made a very good Barr Hill team look average today. It was great to see the header go in, from a brilliant delivery from Amaan to find Alfie, for best goal of the season for me, not just because of the headed goal but more so scoring off a set piece we've practised in training. Well done everyone today, you all played a part in a great first Cup match victory. Thanks parents as always, and well done to Amaan for earning Man of the Match”.
The Hurricanes squad for the match was: Oliver Dalton-Bunker, Fabio Figueiredo, Alfie Rostron, Amaan Khan, Oliver Williams, Oliver Hall, Henry Errington, Dillan Caldwell, Jamie Maher, Daniel Robinson and Joshua Whitehead.