by Ethan Harris
Date: Wednesday 7th March 2018 (15:00)
Venue: Maiden Castle 3G Durham
A SPECTACULAR display from penalty saviour Ashley Morris saw University of South Wales Men’s 1st team through to the semi finals of the BUCS Championship Cup.
The victory over Durham University 1st means USW face local rivals Cardiff Metropolitan University for a place in the final.
After a goal-less 90 minutes of action, not even extra time could separate the sides. Instead it took a thrilling penalty shootout that saw goalkeeper Morris star as the hero of the day, saving three penalties and scoring one.
The game plan from USW was evident from the first moments of the game. Looking to capitalise on their distinct height advantage, a barrage of long, searching balls ensued for most of the first half.
But in a physical first few minutes of the tie, it was Durham who looked to control the game, as they kept possession well, finding particular success with long diagonal balls, switching the play quickly and turning the USW defence on its heels.
The first real chance fell to the home side in the 15th minute of play, as they worked the ball well down the right-hand side to sweep a cross into the area, but Jack Dancey’s glancing header flew over the bar.
USW struggled to keep any meaningful possession in the first period and appeared to be punished for it in the 19th minute of play, when a slight feint from Kyle Patton allowed him to create contact and win a penalty for his side.
Matty Cornish stepped up to take the spot-kick for Durham, firing his effort to the right of goal only for Morris to fling himself at the shot and parry the ball away from danger.
The second half saw USW start with greater intent, as they were through on goal only moments after the restart. Louis Gerrard looked to compose himself, his placed effort however was well met by the feet of stopper Tom Bramley.
Once the game had settled into the second period, Durham once more showed their possession-based style, nearly punishing USW from a corner in the 58th minute after a brief lapse in concentration from an otherwise superb defence.
Dancey again found himself with a glorious chance, with his headed effort desperately cleared off the line by USW.
Durham nearly found a winner in the dying embers of the tie, when in the 89th minute Milos Christoforov whipped a ball from the left towards the back post, finding Kyle Patton in space, his effort though tipped over the bar by the ever-alert Morris.
In extra-time neither side could capitalise, despite the game becoming a much more open affair. Instead, USW were reduced to ten men after captain Joe Evans saw his second yellow of the game for taking out Durham forward Christoforov, who had an open effort on goal just outside of the area.
The visitors dug in for the remainder of extra-time, however Morris was called upon once more to save the day, when Christoforov glanced another header towards his goal, only for the stopper to pull out yet another brilliant acrobatic manoeuvre to deny him.
Penalties loomed, and USW looked to take full advantage. Morris made an excellent save to his right to set the tone of the shootout, denying Tom Isola on the first attempt.
David Thomas then stepped up for USW, sending the keeper the wrong way as his effort hit the right side of the net.
Will Bell and Louis Gerrard scored consecutive penalties for either side, giving USW a 2-1 advantage in the tie.
Morris was determined to see his side through however, guessing correctly yet again to deny Christoforov, before stepping up himself and smashing an effort into the roof of the net to extend USW’s advantage.
After his brief celebration, the keeper refocused and pulled off yet another save for Alex McGrath’s penalty effort, to see USW safely through to the semi-final of the Championship Cup.