11:55am Wednesday 22nd February 2012
By James Colasanti
Canvey are through to the county cup final following a thrilling penalties win over Daggers last night.
The Gulls were battered for an hour of the game but defended manfully, and they earned a shoot-out in which keeper James Russell saved twice before skipper Matt Game scored a sudden death kick to seal a 6-5 penalty win.
It was an incredible end to a memorable night at Park Lane and secured Canvey their first cup-final appearance for years.
Canvey looked nervous early on and were lucky not to go behind when Michael Alaile - brought in to replace Steve Sheehan at centre back - made a mistake which lead to Rob Edmund feeding Jake Reed again, but this time the striker dragged wide with a clear sight of goal.
Daggers’ elegant midfielder Billy Bingham then went close twice: first flashing over from a loose ball in the box, and then drawing a good one-handed tip over from James Russell.
And the hosts were dealt a blow on 19 minutes as veteran defender Steve Ward pulled up with an injury which saw him replaced by Sheehan.
Another defensive slip allowed Edmund to tee up Reed yet again, but his shot was charged down.
And then DJ Green curled a long-range effort over the bar as Canvey remained under the cosh.
Russell then made a sensational save when Reed flicked on Dominic Green’s cross and Edmund was denied from point-blank range by a one-handed tip over the bar.
And a very one-sided half somehow ended 0-0 when Edmund trapped, then flicked a ball across the six-yard box for Reed to glance a header wide.
Bingham forced Russell into a low save three minutes after the restart then Dominic Green twisted and turned and fired wide as the second-half picked up where the first left off.
Daggers keeper Dave Hogan was worked for the first time on the hour mark as he comfortably scooped up Dean Mason’s grass-cutter from distance.
And Canvey improved after that and saw Alex Rhodes’ direct free-kick from 30 yards clear the bar by a few feet.
And with four minutes to go Canvey had a great chance to win it as Matt Game latched on to Ashley Dumas’ dink forward and squared for sub Jason Hallett, but his close-range effort was heroically blocked on the line.
And on the stroke of full-time Daggers substitute Adam Cunnington cut in but fired over with a clear sight of goal.
Then came the drama of penalties. Danny Heale’s first for Canvey was saved, but then Russell kept out Richard Rose’s to level.
Russell then converted one of the penalties before he made a brilliant full-stretch stop to deny Luke Wilkinson in sudden death, and Game fired home the winner to send the home crowd into raptures.
Canvey (4-4-2): Russell; Ward (Sheehan 19), Easterford, Alaile, Dumas; Mason, King, Game, Rhodes; Woods-Garness (Hallett 71), Heale.
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