Scorpion Cup Semi-Final

Three Coopers Reserves 2 Spotted Dog 1

THREE Coopers Reserves withstood a second-half onslaught from visitors Spotted Dog to book their place in the Scorpion Cup final after a thrilling semi-final at Bedale last Sunday.

The home side, playing down the slope in the first half, started strongly and made all the early running. Paul Swain tested Spotted Dog keeper Glen Ridley from long range after 14 minutes and two minutes later a free kick from Chris Garbutt was headed over at the far post by Nathan Adams.

The visitors did look dangerous whenever they had the chance to attack and one such raid almost gave them the lead after 20 minutes. The lively Darren Pearson got clear down the left, but Chris Binns was unable to turn in his low cross at the far post.

That seemed to act as a spur to Coopers and within six minutes they had scored twice to take a firm grip on the tie.

After 24 minutes a cross from the left by Matthew Gibb was met at the far post by Steve Dawson. Although Ridley did well to keep out his powerful header, the ball fell nicely for Swain to smash it into the net from close range.

Spotted Dog barely had time to take in that blow before they were 2-0 down. The nippy Dawson chased the ball into the left corner and, from a seemingly impossible angle, put in a cross which flew over Ridley and went in off the far post.

Whether it was a shot or a cross did not matter to Coopers as they were now firmly in control and starting to dream of a day out in Northallerton for the final next month.

It was nearly all over after half an hour when Dawson got clear again, but Ridley saved his first-time shot and the visitors made the most of the reprieve by starting to get into the match.

In fact, they finished the half on top and were a little unfortunate to still be two behind at the break.

After 32 minutes Pearson got clear down the left, but his low shot was well-saved by Adam Cartwright in the Coopers goal. Two minutes later, Pearson's effort was blocked by Johnny Morris and Binns could not turn in the rebound.

On the stroke of half-time Cartwright produced another fine save, tipping a great effort from Martin Cundy over the crossbar.

Now with the slope in their favour, Spotted Dog came out for the second half determined to show that they had not given up on their own cup final dreams.

Five minutes after the restart Cartwright again denied Pearson and even when the visitors did eventually manage to beat the Coopers keeper, Tom Marshall's header came back off the crossbar.

Just as it seemed they would never score, Spotted Dog finally got the goal they had been threatening. Cundy got the ball 25 yards out in the 57th minute and unleashed a fierce shot which even Cartwright was powerless to stop.

With Andrew Bowerbank now having more influence down the right for Spotted Dog and the impressive Lee Johnson everywhere, Coopers were desperately hanging on to their slender advantage.

Pearson shot into the side netting on the hour following good work from Johnson before another header from Marshall went straight into the grateful arms of Cartwright.

As the game entered the final ten minutes, the visitors began to get more desperate in their attempts for an equaliser and threw everything forward. Even centre half Marshall was now playing as a third attacker, but still the goal would not come.

With six minutes left, it seemed that all the pressure would finally bring some reward for Spotted Dog. A well-worked free kick from Cundy found Mark Flood totally unmarked in the six-yard box. He had all the time in the world to pick his spot, but he somehow managed to scuff his shot and it rolled harmlessly wide of the post.

But if Coopers thought they had weathered the storm, they were very much mistaken. Man of the match Cartwright again came to their rescue in the 88th minute to deny Bowerbank and Binns' injury-time shot was blocked by the impressive Morris. The ball fell invitingly to Pearson, but he could only hit the post from close range and Coopers survived.

The full-time whistle sounded seconds later to spark the Coopers celebrations, but they will surely have to play better than this if they are to beat County Arms in the final next month.