The third of the day’s finals at Dam Park offered up late drama as nine man Whitletts Victoria lifted the William Nesbitt cup all thanks to an extraordinary last five minute turn around. This was a devastating defeat for a Glenburn side who looked in control of the game going into its latter stages. Instead a never say die Whitletts team spirit was to make all the difference to the game’s eventual outcome.
It’s an understatement to say that this was a lively encounter throughout. The game began as such, with neither midfield giving an inch. Victoria were to have the better of the opening exchanges, with Aiden Porter testing Lewis McMurdo’s close range skills on eight minutes. The Glenburn stopper proved more than equal to the task with two strong gloves on the point blank header.
Neither side was carving out gilt edged openings, but with the danger of a stalemate looming, Whitletts took the lead from a fine flowing move in the 19th minute. It came from a powerful run down the left, from Kris Kerr, showing real strength to stay on his feet and provide the perfect cross for Porter’s run into the box. The midfielder capped a fine assist with an equally assured finish.
The weather was closing in as Glenburn dug for a response, getting forward in the damp conditions. Callum Haymarch provided the impetus with some driving runs to commit defenders, and his lay off to Fraser Smith almost provided an opportunity on 26 minutes, but the striker’s shot was blocked.
There was no question as to what this meant to both sides, in a committed midfield contest. It was to be a challenging day for the man in the middle with every decision a source of contention. It remained an even half of few clear cut chances until, just before half time, Glenburn levelled the tie from the spot.
Haymarch’s run into the box was tracked by Kerr but the Whitletts midfielder’s challenge gave the referee the easiest of decisions. Jordan Barr stepped up to fire home to send Glenburn in at half time with a more positive outlook.