|03/05/2016||6:00 pm||Sam Cornish Cup||2015/16|
Aberystwyth Exiles 1sts buried the recent memory of being hammered 5-1 by AFC Gabalfa in the Combination Cup, by winning 6-2 yesterday evening with an excellent team performance to reach the final of the Sam Cornish Cup.
Despite a rocky start, with captain Will Brown and defensive partner Kieran Patel arriving after kick-off, which resulted in a changed back three – Chris Jeacott returned in goal having performed admirably in the last round, while Matt Davies, James Everett and Rhodri Charles-Williams as the defensive three. Iolo Tomlinson changed wings, Kiernan Pedder returned to the team having won his race for fitness on the right, Dan Poole and Scott Phillips continued in midfield with Rory Wigmore just in front, behind Will Eastwood and Mark Lewis. The bench contained the two latecomers, player-manager James Naik and Pete Nicol.
The problems pre-kickoff unsettled the side and Exiles seemed uncomfortable at the back, and an early goal was conceded at the back post after a cross was drilled across the box, the Gabalfa forward having been failed to be picked up. However, going a goal down did seem to galvanize the team and you could see the side trying take the fight to Gabalfa. Matt Davies, who was visibly struggling with a calf injury was then replaced by Will Brown, with Everett moving to the right after 30 mins. After some sustained pressure the impressive Kiernan Pedder got the equaliser as a throw-in down the left was worked across the box for him to smash home. The two sides continued to press for the lead but couldn’t find it before half-time.
After the break, Exiles started to dominate, visibly buoyed by their equaliser and a passionate team-talk. A lovely ball from Eastwood to Lewis opened up the defence, who then held it up and returned the favour for Eastwood to finish. Charles-Williams was substituted with hamstring trouble as Patel joined the fray to shore up the defence. Exiles continued to press for a third, and when Eastwood received the ball on the edge of the box he struck a shot with aplomb and made it 3-1. A fourth followed when Poole struck a free-kick which was split by the Gabalfa keeper and Lewis was on hand to turn in the rebound. Gabalfa then struck from a corner as they looked to force their way back but Eastwood had other ideas when he completed his hat-trick with a crisp finish into the bottom corner. The icing on the cake was a Wigmore corner was then turned in by Pedder with a header at the back-post for his second. Pedder received man of the match for his efforts and it was quite incredible that he put in such a performance having appeared to be out with a season-ending shoulder injury just a week before. James Naik then replaced Eastwood with only a few minutes left, who left the field to applause for his performance and hat-trick.
Exiles will now face RAFA in their first ever final, and will be hoping to take their performance not only from this game, but also from Butetown and STM Sports OB into it and will be looking to gain their first piece of silverware.