Milton Keynes College completed a remarkable turnaround against South Gloucestershire & Stroud to book a dream cup final at St George’s Park. But that doesn’t begin to tell the story, writes Liam Andrews.
The game, which ended 3-2 in MK’s favour, saw four penalties awarded, as well as a red card – and an extra man on the field at Tattenhoe Pavillion.
Jamie Walker put the away side ahead after 27 minutes with a penalty, and they doubled their lead early in the second half with another spot-kick from Charlie Novoth.
On 63 minutes, Ashley Phillips pulled one back with a long range strike, before Jonathan Edwards equalised with a penalty, and a deflected shot found its way into the back of the net to give MK the winner with 15 minutes left.
For the first 10 minutes, MK accidentally played with 12 men on the field, without the referee noticing, before the Gloucester manager noticed the error.
The referee pointed to the spot for the first time after what seemed like a good tackle, but Walker stepped up and fired well beyond Wade.
Just minutes later, Gloucester had another penalty for a definite foul, however this time Wade denied Walker who sent his penalty the same way as the previous one.
The second half started with a third penalty for Gloucester, but Novoth took over the duties for this one and his tame effort still found a way into the net to double the away side’s advantage.
Goalkeeper Nathan Dennis raced out to clear as Alex Dixon broke free, but the ball fell to Phillips who curled brilliantly from range into an empty net to begin the fightback.
Moments later the referee awarded a fourth penalty of the game, but this time to MK for handball – a decision that upset Gloucester left-back Novoth who stood in front of the ball so the spot-kick could not be taken. The behaviour saw him booked, before Edwards stepped up and fired home the equaliser.
Down the other end, Gloucester almost retook the lead immediately as Dan Martin fired at goal, but Wade produced an excellent save to deny him.
MK were then awarded a free-kick, which again upset Novoth who stupidly muttered some words about the referee and got himself sent off.
The free-kick didn’t threaten, but it did win MK a corner and Gloucester couldn’t deal with the in-swinging ball as it deflected into the net to complete the turnaround.
The jubilation from the MK players and coaches was clear to see at the final whistle, but now they must prepare for the final on May 1 at England’s St George’s Park training base.
Manager Mark Walsh said: “We always believe in ourselves and have a great team spirit, and that has shown through today. To come from 2-0 down, we believed that we could and we did.
“I didn’t think they were all penalties, but you have to respect what the referee sees or does, and we approached the game with the same attitude despite those penalties.
“It’s a great opportunity to go to St George’s Park and it’s a piece of history for us, we’ve never been this far in a competition before. It will be really good and I can’t wait.”