Lisburn Distillery v Abbey Villa (ToalsBet.Com Steel & Sons Cup quarter-final) – 23rd October 2021 – Match Report
Lisburn Distillery went into Saturday’s game against Abbey Villa as favourites but few at New Grosvenor will have expected the opposition to be anything but a pushover.
There was one change to the Whites starting line-up from the previous weeks Intermediate Cup win against Rectory Rangers, captain Aaron Harris returned with Lewis Higginson dropping to the bench. Summer signing Jordan Lucas also returned from injury, taking his place among the substitutes.
The game started as a cagey affair, but it was the Whites who had the first real sight of goal in the 7th minute when Timmy Clarke hit a fine cross into the box, which Rhys Emerson rose to meet but he could not keep his header on target and the ball flew over the bar.
Johnny Clapham’s side had the bulk of the ball in the first half hour of the game but not for the first time this season the final product was lacking at times and the Whites had to survive a few scares in the final 15 minutes of the opening half to get in scoreless at the break.
Firstly, in the 33rd minute Jonah Nicholl attempted to throw the ball back out into play, but the ball only got as far as an Abbey Villa player who tried his luck with the Distillery ‘keeper in no man’s land. Fortunately, a backpedalling Nicholl was able to push the ball behind for a corner, which came to nothing. Moments later, from another corner, Mick O’Hanlon was on hand to clear the ball off the line after Nicholl was beat to the ball by a Villa player who headed goalwards.
Distillery did get forward in the 40th minute and visiting ‘keeper, Andrew Wallace, was unable to hold a Neil Dillon cross but the Villa number one did manage to gather the ball at the second attempt before Emerson or Caoelain Young could take advantage.
The half-time whistle blew with the game scoreless and whilst Distillery were comfortable for the majority of the game so far, they were perhaps still relieved to get in with no goals conceded.
Half-time: Lisburn Distillery 0-0 Abbey Villa
The visitors came out all guns blazing at the start of the second half and attacked almost from the kick-off, Christopher Murray found himself in space on the left and aimed a dangerous looking cross towards the back post, but Barry Moore was able to clear the danger away with the ball eventually going out for a goal-kick.
Clapham’s side did settle into the half soon though and Wallace had to be alert to save a low O’Hanlon free-kick low to his right in the 53rd minute. Then, in the 57th minute some great build up play from Distillery ended with Clarke putting another great cross in but this time it was half-time substitute Lucas who could not keep his header below the bar.
Nicholl was on hand to keep the game goalless in the 75th minute with a fine save and five minutes later up the other end Napier had a shot blocked and O’Hanlon’s follow up went wide for a goal-kick, despite the wingers protests that he should have had a corner.
Villa had a golden chance to secure victory with just three minutes left on the clock when the ball came to Christopher McKay with all the time and space he needed but fortunately for the Distillery faithful he ballooned his effort high and wide of the goal.
No goals after 90 minutes so that being the case we moved into the first of two 10 minute periods of extra-time.
End of 90 minutes: Lisburn Distillery 0-0 Abbey Villa
There were few talking points in extra-time until eight minutes in when Clarke went in to try and win the ball with a tackle but in doing so left the ground and caught his Abbey Villa counterpart, leaving the referee with little option but to show the Whites full-back a straight red card. In the melee that followed Abbey Villa manager Jonathan Busby was also given his marching orders for entering the playing field.
Once everything settled down there was still time for Lucas to send a shot from the edge of the box fizzing just over the Villa crossbar but at the end of the first period of extra-time there was still nothing to separate the teams.
Half-time in extra-time: Lisburn Distillery 0-0 Abbey Villa
The second period of extra-time saw the Whites start on the front foot with substitute Johnny McCaw trying his luck on goal in the opening minute, but his effort deflected behind for a corner which the Distillery couldn’t make count.
Just two minutes later the same player showed some great skill to get past his man and give himself a clear run into the box but just as the Whites forward broke into the area he was bundled over by a chasing defender. The Distillery players and fans appealed in vain for a penalty, but the referee simply told McCaw to get up, it certainly looked as though he had been fouled but whether it was just inside or outside the box was difficult to tell.
An Abbey Villa free kick from range gave them a late chance to pile men forward and the ball did make its way to Michael Doran who had somehow escaped the attention of his marker but he could not trouble Nicholl with his header.
With nothing between the sides over 110 minutes of football the game would have to be decided by a penalty shootout. The last time Distillery were involved in one of these was also in the Steel & Sons Cup in the 2019-2020 season when Larne Tech Old Boys ran out winners so Whites fans had everything was crossed for a better outcome this time.
Full-time: Lisburn Distillery 0-0 Abbey Villa
The Whites had the advantage of going first in the shootout, which took place at the Seymour Hill end of the ground. Moore, McCaw, O’Hanlon and Harris all converted the first four penalties with ease for Clapham’s side and Nicholl saved Abbey Villa’s third effort from the spot.
This gave Lucas a chance to win it for Distillery in the fifth round of the shootout, but this time Wallace guessed right and made a fine save to his right and Villa then converted their fifth penalty to send the shootout into a sixth round and sudden death.
Chris Getty was next up for the home side and as most expected he went for sheer power behind his spot kick but saw it hit the top of the crossbar, handing the advantage to Abbey Villa who could win with the next penalty. Nicholl however had other ideas and for the second time in the shootout he guessed right to keep the tie alive.
Youngsters Lewis Higginson and Christian Irvine were next to take on the responsibility for Distillery but if there were any nerves they did not show as both coolly slotted their efforts home but Villa were equal to it making the score 6-6 after eight penalties each.
Neil Dillon went up for Distillery in round nine and became the seventh player to beat Wallace from the spot and this time Nicholl was not required as the Abbey Villa player put his effort wide of the right-hand post to send Distillery through to the semi-final stage.
It marks the first time Distillery have reached this stage of any competition since the 2014-2015 season when we faced Carrick Rangers in the Intermediate Cup semi-final, losing 3-2, and it clearly meant a lot to everyone involved with the club on Saturday. Hopefully we can go at least one step further to the Christmas morning final.
Final result: Lisburn Distillery win 7-6 on penalties
Lisburn Distillery; Nicholl, Dillon, Clarke, Irvine, O’Hanlon, Harris ©, C. Young, Napier, Emerson, Sullivan, Moore.
Lisburn Distillery substitutes; Pollock, Getty (for Napier, 101 mins), Higginson (for Sullivan, 96 mins), McCaw (for C. Young, 64 mins), Lucas (for Emerson, 46 mins).