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Killie pip Clark Drive in semi final thriller

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FC Kilmarnock Blues
Clark Drive Girls FC
13's SWF South West League Cup - Semi Final
7 May 2014
Author: Stephen Kennedy
Where do I start? How can I convey the brilliance of two sets of Under 13s Girls on a damp night in May? How can I transmit the superb atmosphere created by the Kilmarnock home support in a 14 goal thriller or the tension as both sides thought they were out of the League Cup and the joy when last minute equalisers take the game to extra time and penalties? I can try but the truth is – you had to be there and if you weren’t you missed a wonderful advert for girls’ football.
The match between Killie Blues and Clark Drive of Irvine is easily the game of the season so far at any age group within FC Kilmarnock. It had everything a supporter could ask for. Goals, drama, awesome saves; all the things a cup tie should have and more.
The game kicked off on a freshly cut but sodden Scott Ellis pitch, with Clark Drive firmly in the driving seat. Killie were slow in comparison, rather lacklustre in the first ten minutes or so. Clark Drive Girls hit the bar and post in the first minute of the match and continued to dominate but bad luck and good goalkeeping kept the scores level.
Killie’s first chance fell to Courtney Allan, following a lovely long ball over the top for her to latch on to. The Irvine keeper Mel Jones was swiftly off her line to block the youngster’s shot. Allan then followed up on a tremendous shot from Kirsten Robinson, which was parried by Jones. Allan’s effort travelled narrowly beyond the post.
It was end to end frantic entertainment as the excitement and tension grew but the Kilmarnock coaches were far from happy with the way the visitors were carving open their defence. It was poor defending that provided the first goal as CDG’s Kari Stewart took advantage of sloppy play before rifling the ball into the top left corner. 1-0 to the team in yellow and it was no more than they deserved.
Jemma Bruce almost doubled their lead but for the finger tips of Hope Welsh in the Killie goal.
Killie seemed to come alive after going behind, which is often the case. Five or six close range efforts, saved or blocked by keeper and defenders before the ball dropped to the left foot of Amy Murdoch, who scored from close range to level the game.
Courtney Allan, showed just how good a player she is, selling the last defender a dummy, delivering a powerful low drive that Jones did well to save. Holly McConnell’s follow up hitting the side netting.
Both keepers were on top form maintaining the score at 1-1. In fact I wondered if Jones was going to be the star of the show as she seemed unbeatable at times. Even when Allan found the touch to beat her, with a sublime low pass across goal, the ball inched away to safety. 
The first period concluded at one goal apiece. Nerves of steel were going to be required for the second half.
Half Time: FC Kilmarnock Blues 1-1 Clark Drive Girls
Kirsten Robinson has a wonderful left foot on her and proved it on numerous occasions during this match. Her first effort of the second half brought out another top save from Jones to push the ball over the bar. It was the left peg of Robinson that gave Kilmarnock the lead, shooting low, across the face of the goal to eliminate the keeper from the equation. A lovely strike indeed.
Then we witnessed some magical footwork from Murdoch, skipping by three players, then unselfishly setting up McConnell. That lass Jones saving again at the expense of a corner.
From the corner, which was headed towards goal by the smallest person on the park – Courtney Allan. The ball cleared from line fell to the dynamo that is Courtney Allan but her shot was brilliantly save by the keeper again.
Kari Stewart and Lana McLaughlin entertained with great link up play with Welsh saving from the resulting shot. This was followed by a Stewart free-kick from the right. Floated in, it took a wicked deflection before Jemma Bruce made contact with her knee at the back post. The ball travelled across goal and looked a certainty to finish in the back of the net but to the relief of the Killie coaches, missed by inches.
Clark Drive seemed to take hope from Kilmarnock’s missed opportunities and were rising to the challenge of finding an equaliser. From a corner McLaughlin tested Welsh’s resolve with a close range effort but the tall keeper held on the ball well. Welsh released Murdoch at the other end but once more Jones brought off a wonderful save.
Kari Stewart brought the game back to parity with a long shot that caught Welsh out as the ball agonisingly slipped between her legs. Game on again. With CDG now looking for a winner, Devon Cunningham, delivered a bullet of a shot, which Welsh gathered at the second attempt.
The home team’s 13s, 15s, 17s and Seniors were in attendance, providing an electric atmosphere as they cheered on Kilmarnock, whilst appreciating both sides for what was brilliant entertainment.
As the noise levels intensified, Allan cleverly beat the last defender, shooting beyond the keeper only to see the ball rattle the post. The ball fell to Murdoch whose shot was cleared off the line by an outstretched leg of a defender. 
The left peg of Robinson was once more the route to goal as Killie again took the lead. The noise was deafening and the tension rising further, if that was even possible, as the fans hoped Kilmarnock could kill this match off. And they thought they had done just that when Allan slipped by the final defender and casually slotted the ball beyond Jones to make it 4-2. Surely that was game over!!
Not a chance. Within seconds Jemma Bruce caught Killie napping and pulled one back and in the dying seconds, McLaughlin broke the hearts of the Blues as she scored to make it four all and into extra time we went.
Allan gave Kilmarnock the lead again with her second of the match before Bruce levelled for CDG. 
A rare sight saw Jones fumble a shot allowing Murdoch to tap home to make it 6-5 Killie as the anxiety became unbearable. 
Hope Welsh permitted Clark Drive a route back into this amazing match as she failed to hold onto a long shot; the ball slipping through her hands and agonisingly dropping in behind her and over the line.
Then disaster struck. Clark Drive’s Luisa Gibson broke through with only the keeper to beat. She made no mistake as she provided her side the lead for only the second time in the match. Hearts sank amongst the home support but credit to the girls, they played till the last second and would never concede this match was over.
Hope Welsh made amends for her error earlier as her kick out was knocked down to Allan and with literally seconds to play, the “wee yin” blasted home with the grace of Messi to take this spectacular match into penalties.
Full Time: FC Kilmarnock Blues 4-4 Clark Drive Girls
A truly amazing game of football between two teams who played the game as it was meant to be played. There was no cheating or arguing, wonderful skills on display, superb goals and comebacks and we now faced the dreaded penalty shoot out. Shame there had to be a loser here.
Before the first kick was taken, it has to be said that Clark Drive were favourites as their keeper had been on excellent form during the match as she had a presence between the sticks. Kilmarnock’s Welsh was almost in tears with the thought of being all that stood between defeat and a place in Final.
A goalkeeper, two goalkeeping coaches and players giving her advise but the look of terror was etched on her young face. My only comment was “no one expects you to save a penalty but if you save one, you could be a hero tonight.” Hope smiled and walked nervously towards the nets. 
What happened next will live with her for a long time as she not only saved one, with a finger tip touch onto the bar but also the one that really mattered. Diving to her right, she denied the taker with a brave save to send Killie into the final 3-1 on penalties.
Player of the Match: Where do you start? I considered carefully as I looked around the team. Consider Allan, Robinson and Murdoch’s goals along with the defensive skills of Laura Thomson. The goalkeeper Hope Welsh or the hard working Holly McConnell and you could see they were all candidates. After discussing with coach Lauren Johnstone, we agreed it had to be Jodie Davidson. She never put a foot wrong through the entire match and was inspirational at times. Well done Jodie.
Lauren spoke to Jodie after the game:
"The game was very difficult as we never had our full squad, with Julie Black away on holiday - making it even harder but we coped relatively well. I thought at 4-2 that might be it, but they kept fighting and, to their credit, forced extra time! 
"We had to dig deep in extra time as we were starting to tire but we stood up to the challenge. It was nervy but Courtney's last minute equaliser was fantastic. We showed great character and bravery throughout and that allowed us to win via penalties so we're all delighted! 
"What an achievement it is to be in the final - it's one of the best feelings ever! Hopefully we can go on to win it now but we need to continue to work hard. Also, good luck to the 12s on Saturday - it would be great to have an all Killie final.”
I think we all need to say a special thanks to the crowd. The atmosphere created by you had a huge impact on the players, giving them a lift when they were down and driving them on to the final. If we could have this sort of turnout at all our games, the club would be unbeatable!
It says a lot when images of the crowd almost match that of the players in the final cut. You helped make this result possible.
And let us not forget our opponents Clark Drive. They were tremendous on the night – never relenting, fighting for every ball and scored some brilliant goals. You did your club proud girls.
One final word. Two players on the bench who the coaches wanted to bring on but due to the closeness, competitiveness and importance of the match, it was decided not to risk changes. Emelia Farren and Christina Miller – your time will come. You are part of FC Kilmarnock – never forget that!
Final Result: FC Kilmarnock Blues 4-4 Clark Drive Girls (FC Kilmarnock win 3-1 on penalties)
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