Frenetic finish fires nine man Street into cup final   

Welsh League Division Three side Bridgend Street performed double comeback heroics to stun League One Haverfordwest County and reach the Nathaniel Cars Cup Final after a night filled with drama.

Nicky Davison’s finely taken penalty in the last minute of extra time sent nine-man Bridgend Street to a shoot out. Four finely taken penalties later and they were into the cup final.

It is an often over used phrase in football to say that a team “wanted it more”, yet as Bridgend Street players, staff and supporters celebrated with Richie Noyes after he thumped home the winning penalty in the shoot out, it would have been difficult for anyone present at the KYMCO Stadium to deny that the Mission had found that little bit of extra grit and determination to see off their more established opponents.  There were surely harsh words in the CountY dressing room, where they will have known the job should have been completed in normal time.

On 88 minutes, the match seemed like it was petering out to a comfortable win for the west Wales side. They were 3-1 up, cruising to victory with an extra man after referee Ryan Kenny had sent off three players, all for their second bookable offences, in five early second half minutes.

Two goals from Steffan Williams and one from the majestic Ashley Bevan looked set to have seen off Street, who had taken a one goal lead into half time courtesy of Nicky Davison’s finish at the second attempt.  At that point the red cards, and the fact much of the first half was played in rather gloomy conditions as the floodlights were turned on late, looked set to be the talking points.

With moments to go, first half goalscorer Davison scored with a peach of a drive from 25 yards into the bottom corner.  Rather than a deserved consolation, it led to scenes that left everyone present scratching their heads wondering if they had ever seen anything quite like it before.

Richie Noyes, once again impressive at the back, had a chance to launch a long throw from the right. It bounced in the box, made its way to fellow centre half Ross Dingle, and the big man smashed home deep into injury time and the nine-men from Splott incredibly had forced extra time.

From a comfortable win, suddenly an upset was still on the cards. It felt like the momentum was with Street, but they were still playing a man down, employing a 3-3-2 formation that lost shape at regular intervals as they pressed for any break they could get.

County staff, players and supporters must all have been in a state of disbelief, but anger also as they had the chances to win but seemed to ease off when they needed to put the tie to bed.  Perhaps County ‘keeper James Gwilt’s over-exuberant celebration as they went 3-1 up (he ran over to Street supporters and was heard to shout ‘Boom Boom’) gave an indication that a number of players on the pitch thought the job was done.  In truth, County had the chances to wrap up the game, but Street custodian King was on fine form, saving particularly well from Bevan and Palmer, the latter when through one on one.

There was to be more drama in the extra period. Jeff White did what he does best, holding up the ball in the box, then turned and shot from a tight angle, beating Gwilt and a diving clearance from Greg Walters, and Street were 4-3 up.  Fifteen minutes ticked past and fans looked at their watches for half time in extra time. Then a cross from the right and sub Steffan Davies headed home at the near post. Four all. The Street bench incensed at the timing of the goal. Manager, Dale, complained and was sent to the stands.

In the second half of extra time Bevan broke free again down the left, crossed and Williams had a hat trick. Surely that was to be that.

Street struggled to get much of the ball in those final few minutes and County were taking the ball into the corners to secure the win. A free kick deep in Street territory was awarded and players dropped to the ground with cramp and Davison with a bad knee. Lengthy treatment ensued. When the game restarted, Street stole possession and got the ball forward. It was cleared twice. Davison was back on. Dan Noyes chipped in a ball from 30 yards. Davison leapt, fell to the ground after a nudge in the back and the referee pointed to the spot. Davison stepped up. A hat trick. 5-5. To penalties.

Nicky King then became the hero, saving the first kick from Steffan Williams and the fourth from Nicky Palmer. Some Street players and fans thought they had won, celebrating mistakenly. Richie Noyes remained calm, walked forward and fired Street into the cup final.

Photo: James Mitchell Photo (Twitter: @Pooglaa)

Haverfordwest County 5 (S Williams 68, 70, 110; Bevan 80; S Davies 105) Bridgend Street 5 (Davison 30, 89, 120; Dingle 90+4; White 95) (ht 0-1; ft 3-3; aet 5-5; pens 2-4)

Penalty shoot out: Haverfordwest County: S Williams (saved), Facciuto (scored), Lee Hudgell (scored), Nicky Palmer (saved). Bridgend Street: Jeff White (scored), Nicky Davison (scored), Dan Noyes (scored), Richard Noyes (scored)

Haverfordwest County: James Gwilt, Matthew Broome, Antonio Facciuto, Sean Pemberton, Ricky Watts, Kieran O’Brien, Steffan Williams, Greg Walters, Ashley Bevan, Rhys Dalving, Lee Hudgell. Subs: Spencer Williams, Christian Spence, Nicky Palmer, Steffan Davies, Stefano Antoniazzi.

Bridgend Street: Nicholas King, Rhys Foley, Daniel Noyes, Ross Dingle, Richard Noyes, Paul Carro, Owen Bancroft, Paul Fowler, Jeff White, Nicky Davison, Harry Burge. Subs: Jason Martin, Nick Berry, Jack Huntley, Joel Croker, Damien Lack.

Man of the Match: There were a lot of contenders. But 21 year old Owen Bancroft lost his experienced midfield partner Paul Fowler to a red card early in the second half and ran the show for Street in the middle of the park until he limped off with cramp with moments remaining.  A fantastic performance.

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