Match Report: Manchester Central 2-2 Beechfield United (2-3 PEN)

Penalties ended up putting Manchester Central out of this year’s Gilgryst Cup semi-final against Beechfield United after manager Paul McGuire’s men fought back from two goals down at halftime at The Manchester College.

With the sun out in full, those in attendance watched a competitive start to the game as both sides battled for the opening goal, with chances coming at both ends. Central looked to get in through Liam Ellis on several occasions early on, while visitors Beechfield struck an effort against the woodwork.

It was a good contest between the two sides promoted together from the Manchester Football League Division One last season, as both teams looked for their route into the cup final.

Ultimately, the opening strike came Beechfield’s way in the 33rd minute when they won a free kick just out from the centre of Central’s box. The visitors made no mistake with the set piece, sending it beyond Ben Jupp in goal.

That goal filled the visitors with confidence and just two minutes later they’d doubled their advantage when some sloppy defending let their number 10 get into a good position and lay it off for a daisy-cutter of a strike that ends up in the back of Jupp’s net for their second.

Central tried to respond following the goal but, now full of confidence following the goals from Matthew McNally and Jordan Jones-Waite, the visitors were able to see it out to the half time break without too much trouble.

Jeremy Tunzele on the ball ( cc:Josie Hunt Photography)

In the second half Central needed a response, and in the 63rd minute, they got it.

Having upped the tempo in the match, encouraged even more so in the moments before by the substitution of the energetic and powerful Jeremy Tunzele, Central got a goal back as Dan Burns smashed home a finish, setting up an exciting last third of the match.

Central pushed more and more following that goal and finally, in the 81st minute, that pressure paid dividends. Josh Frith was able to play in Ellis, who got turned and fired past the Beechfield goalkeeper, drawing McGuire’s men level in the match.

The last nine minutes consisted of much of the same end-to-end football, as Central looked to drive on and push for a winner – the momentum with them at that moment – and Beechfield seeking to snatch something on the counter.

Chieku Thiam, who had come on just before the Ellis equaliser, and Tunzele continued to make a difference in the midfield, driving at the tiring legs of Beechfield, but come the full time whistle nobody had managed to find the difference in the game – meaning it was straight to penalties to decide this one.

Central took the first spot kick and Burns lined up but saw his effort saved by the Beechfield goalkeeper.

However, the nightmare start to the shootout for Central was quickly turned around by some spot kick heroics from Jupp, saving both of Beechfield’s first two penalties. Goals for Marcello Arhin and Dario Germano put advantage back in Central’s favour.

Yet, that was not the last twist in the tale for this shootout, as Beechfield converted their next penalty and following misses from both Tunzele, who clattered the woodwork aiming for the top corner, and Frith, who saw his attempt saved, let Beechfield turn it round and win 3-2 on penalties in the end.

It was a fantastic game of football played out of the pitch at The Manchester College as both sides gave their all in the glorious summer weather, but in the end it was the visitors Beechfield who came away victorious and will now go on to contest this year’s Gilgryst Cup final. We wish them all the best!

#WeAreCentral

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