English Deaf Football Challenge Cup Final
James Whatman Way, Maidstone
Admission including Programme: £5.00
Attendance: 250 (estimate)
Match Rating: 4
A two and a half hour interval between this and the earlier game contained a prolonged torrential downpour leaving the 3G pitch with plenty of standing water on it, although happily - and expectedly - it drained away ahead of kick-off, with the rain staying away during the match, for what is considered to be the biggest game in deaf football.
To reach today's final, Derby Deaf beat Charlton Athletic Deaf 1-6 away, Colchester Deaf at home on penalties and Manchester United Deaf 3-1 at home, whilst Doncaster Deaf beat Bristol Deaf 5-3 at home, Birmingham Deaf 1-0 at home and St John's Deaf 1-2 away.
This match was played at a much faster tempo than this morning's, and it soon became clear this would be a much closer contest too. Both teams did plenty of attacking during the first half, Derby Deaf having the best goalscoring opportunities though. They had a goal disallowed for pushing following a corner, and from another corner on 29 minutes, a powerful header by Darrell Sykes came back off the bar. However, the goalless scoreline at the interval was a fair reflection of the first half.
Four minutes into the second half and Derby had another shot on goal, a free kick by Alistair Dalziel from at least 30 yards was tipped over the bar. Two minutes later and Doncaster saw a goal bound shot blocked, however they did take the lead on 57 minutes. A fast break down the left wing ended with the ball being played low across the six yard box, and the striker tapped into an empty net by Joe Norton. Derby created several more chances to get on the scoresheet during the next ten minutes, before they were awarded what looked a very soft penalty indeed for pulling in the area, on the advice of the linesman. After considerable protests, the penalty by Dalziel was comfortably saved by the keeper, John Atkinson's, to his right. However, the linesman waved his flag, signalling an infringement had taken place. Quite what for is anyone's guess, as the photo I had taken just as the penalty was saved showed there was no encroachment. Justice seemed to be done though when the penalty was slammed just wide of the left hand post, again by Dalziel after a change in takers was correctly refused by the referee. A couple of minutes from time, Derby had their final chance to force extra time when Gary Gordon missed a close range tap in after a free kick awas flicked on towards the far post, but in the end it was Doncaster who held on to lift the cup for the fifth time. Derby could probably consider themselves unfortunate, having created many more goalscoring chances, but in truth this was a very even game that could have gone either way and was a good advert for deaf football.