The Ants advanced into the 2nd round of the SoccerShop Challenge cup after finally seeing off an Irvine Vics side who came back from 3-1 down in the final 15 minutes of normal time to draw the match 3-3, with the Ants triumphing 5-3 on penalties as new the new management team took charge of their first competitive match in charge.
It was the Ants who took the lead after only five minutes, when Ndlovu got on the end of a Patrick kick out, he knocked the ball on ahead of himself then a deft touch put the ball into the path of ROBBIE EWART, who will go down in Ants history as the scorer of our first ever goal in “Senior” football, and he made no mistake firing past Taylor. A short pass back then sent Bembo scampering through on goal, but as Taylor advanced the Ants striker tried a cute little lob which went just past the post. The Ants had the bit between their teeth in the opening exchanges, buoyed by the goal, and a nice move down the left saw Bembo and Ndlovu combine and the latter cross the ball to Carballo, the youngster slipped past his marker and found Ewart but he couldn’t generate enough power in his shot on the turn and Taylor held easily. Despite the Ants enjoying the lions share of the opening fifteen minutes they were handed a warning when Martins got on the end of a well delivered corner but he could only head past the post and the chance was gone. The Ants did soon make their pressure pay when Bembo found Ewart, who cut inside and fired a shot at goal which was beaten away by Taylor but EVA BEMBO was quickest to react inside the box and he fired the ball into the net with 19 minutes on the clock to make it 2-0 to the delight of the small number of Ants committee who had made the trip to the seaside. The two teams settled down and despite half chances at either end there was nothing of note to report until the 35th minute when DANIEL MARTINS got his head to a free kick that had been swung into the box and put the ball into the net past Patrick to reduce the deficit to a single goal. Given a boost by the goal Vics started to come into the game more and Connor came close when he was put through on goal but he tried to chip Patrick and didnt connect properly and the Ants keeper held easily then Watupa fired a short a yard or two past the post.
HALF TIME – IRVINE VICS 1 (MARTINS 35) v 2 ANTS (EWART 5, BEMBO 19)
The second half saw the Ants take the front foot and Tran and Conway combined well at a throw in, the former didn’t catch his cross correctly but it somehow found Carballo although the youngster couldn’t generate sufficient power as he spun and shot and Taylor gathered. The Ants did regain their two goal advantage in the 52nd minute. Ants U20s captain, Rui Carballo, making his first team competitive debut knocked the ball one way past his marker and then went round him on the other, raced onto his own knock on and raced towards the edge of the penalty box, his pinpoint pass avoided the attentions of Martins and landed at the feet of EVA BEMBO who grabbed his second and the Ants third. With just over an hour played Carballo swung in a corner that Conway just failed to get on the end of and the ball took a deflection and landed in the six yard box but Taylor was brave, diving onto the loose ball as Bembo closed in for his hat-trick. Bembo came within inches again of scoring his third of the day in the 68th minute. Conway sent Carballo scampering down the wing again where he was tackled by a Vics defender, but he showed great tenacity to win the ball back before crossing into the path of the aforementioned Bembo who just couldnt get a touch as the ball shot across the face of goal and cleared to safety. Patrick had so far had very little to do in the Ants goal during the second half but that all changed in the 75th minute when a cross into the box was flicked home by BRIAN CONNOR to give the home side some belief. The striker was then clean through at an angle but his effort only found the side netting and the Ants remained a goal ahead, that was until the 79th minute, Patrick came for a corner and punched it to just outside the box, the ball was played back in and BRIAN CONNOR beat Patrick to the ball before knocking the ball into the net to equalise. With no further scoring we headed to extra time
FULL TIME – IRVINE VICS 3 (MARTINS 35, CONNOR 75,79) v 3 ANTS (EWART 5, BEMBO 19, 52)
Extra time was a cagey affair with both sides tiring on the heavy Victoria Park surface with the only chances of note seeing efforts disallowed. Connor had the ball in the net for Vics but was judged offside after 103 minutes and then controversy reigned as the Ants thought they had won it in the 112th minute. A throw in from Littler was headed into his own net by Robb, but the man in the middle adjudged there to have been a foul by Bembo, which the video suggests is an incredibly harsh call, and we went to penalties.
Anton Conway, Rui Carballo, Ndjabulo Ndlovu and Danny Smith all netted for the Ants whilst the opening 3 Vics penalties were scored but the fourth taken by Sam McKee was saved by Patrick to give EVA BEMBO the opportunity to win it and he made no mistake sending Taylor the wrong way and earning the Ants a 2nd round tie against Lowland League high fliers East Kilbride FC in November at McKenna Park
ANTS MAN OF THE MATCH SPONSORED BY ROGUE MONKEY DIGITAL MEDIA – RUI CARBALLO