Spalding Grammar School 3 St Albans 1: SPALDING came from behind to book a historic place in the last four of the LB Cup.
Rated as ‘minnows’ in the national competition that includes 15 private school teams, the Grammar equalled their best-ever performance just by reaching the quarter-finals.
But goals from Alex Lyon, Chris Winstanley and Eddy Stagg look the lads into the semi-finals for the first time.
Spalding skipper Ash West said: “Although not the prettiest game of football you will ever see, we thoroughly deserved our win through the work effort all over the pitch and showed good character by coming back from a goal down”.
Vice captain Alex Pearson added: “We didn’t necessarily play our best football, but through grit and determination and some clinical finishing in the final third we’ve managed to turn the game around drag ourselves into the semi-finals.”
Hosts Spalding didn’t have it all their own way though, as St Albans were quick out of the traps.
The away side enjoyed a period of dominance, as James Gifford made some excellent saves to keep the score level. They eventually grabbed an early lead from a goalmouth scramble.
Jack Raynor then kept Spalding in this tie with a superb tackle on the penalty spot after a striker went clean through.
This sparked the home team into life and they levelled courtesy of a slick move. A through ball by Hugh Smith allowed Lyon to strike low into the corner from the edge of the box.
The game then developed into a midfield battle, with neither side creating many chances.
However, Spalding soon turned the game on its head as a launched free kick from Raynor sent Winstanley through.
He challenged the keeper strongly and rolled the ball home after just getting there first.
Spalding were up against it after the break, as they played into the wind.
Their defence held firm though, snuffing out any attacks. At the other end, Raynor went close with an effort from a tight angle.
Other chances went a begging before the key goal of the game arrived. Lyon whipped in a corner for Stagg to loop a header into the top corner, making the score 3-1.
Spalding were forced to dig in for the remaining 30 minutes, with three fresh substitutes helping to close down an increasingly frustrated St Albans side.
They upped the ante in the closing stages, but were unable to break the resolute hosts down.
Spalding will now face either Bromsgrove, or last year’s winners Loughborough in the semi-final.
Loughborough knocked the Grammar out in the quarter-finals last season.