Battle Baptist Football Club reached the semi-finals of the National Christian Cup with a 5-1 win away to Selhurst United on Saturday.
The scoreline may well suggest that Battle cruised through this quarter-final tie, but the reality is that until Medica man of the match Trystan Mayhew scored his hat-trick goal 20 minutes from time, the cup holders were made to work hard for their passage.
The game was launched into life from the kick-off, firstly when Battle striker Josh Pickering hit the crossbar from in a crowded six-yard box and then moments later from another corner centre-half Tom Saunders showed great determination under pressure to force the ball in off the left upright.
The perfect start for the Baptists was counter-punched with the perfect reply from Selhurst. Straight from the restart the London side advanced down the pitch and equalised, despite the best efforts of goalkeeper Jake Rudwick, who initially made a terrific reflex save only to see the ball trickle towards an opponent for a tap in.
Selhurst meant business and looked to disrupt the flow of the champions. Challenges were strong and tackles close to the edge of unacceptability.
Saunders, Mayhew and Joe Brister were each felled by the overexuberance of the hosts, who were enjoying the best spell of their afternoon. Rudwick was called upon to make another great save to keep the scores level.
As the bitterly cold wind swirled and raged, Selhurst chose to play long aerial passes that were difficult to control. Battle gritted their collective teeth under the challenge and began to use possession better than their opponents.
Having conceded their first goal since Christmas, the Baptists pulled off a spectacular riposte to regain the lead on 20-minute mark.
A huge drop kick from Rudwick was controlled and dispatched in one action by Dean Boyd into the path of the flying Mayhew, who used one touch to move the ball forward before unleashing a thunderous half volley, scorching the net as it flew past the home goalkeeper.
Minutes before the break, goal-provider Boyd skilfully danced between defenders in a tight space and released Mayhew once more behind the defensive line. The outcome was predictable as Mayhew fired straight and true, with the goalkeeper this time seeming to dive out of the way.
After half time the visitors were made to work hard until the inevitable Selhurst storm was abated with strong and determined defending by Battle’s rearguard of Ian Rafati, Ollie Jeffs, Saunders and Harry Loates.
Battle patiently kept their two-goal lead and always looked dangerous on the break. They were finally rewarded with the goal that sealed the result, Mayhew cutting in from the byeline and this time guiding a left-footed shot inside the far post, with Boyd claiming yet another assist.
Dale Vinall calmly slotted home a penalty for number five after the supercharged Mayhew was fouled inside the box, giving the result an artificial air of easiness which doesn’t reflect the industry and commitment of the opposition.
Battle await the result of another quarter-final to see if Bolton or Liverpool is the destination of their semi-final trip at the end of March, and believing that it may just be possible to retain their national title against all the odds.
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