The Panthers met recent league rivals East End Phoenix in the second round of the GFSN cup and, despite holding the hosts to a 1-1 draw in normal time, lost out 3-2 in a tense penalty shootout.
The visitors started out strong, pushing Phoenix into their half for much of the first ten minutes, and dealing well with the hosts' counterattacks.
Phoenix' perseverance paid off in the first half, however, as they capitalised on a moment of chaos after goalkeeper Alex Miles saved a shot and the hosts pushed the free ball into the net.
Panthers' heads remained high for the remainder of the half, however, as their attempts to attack down the left flank were thwarted by Pete and Jonathan. In the middle, Rob and Ross kept things tight at the back, allowing wing-backs Pete and Tom to push forwards on the break.
Coming back from half-time, the Panthers continued to dig in, and moved to a 4-5-1 formation, with super-subs Kevin, George and Steve putting in strong performances. After continuing to fend off Phoenix's attacks, the Panthers' efforts were finally rewarded as George Pillas set up Chris Miles to fire a shot home and equalise.
The Panthers had a number of other chances, as the second half drew toa close, but also picked up an injury in midfield as Sal had to leave the field. Despite further battling, the Panthers couldn't score a winner, bringing the match to a penalty shootout.
Despite goalkeeper Alex pulling off two sterling saves, and Mike and Chris smoothly scoring their penalties, Phoenix took the penalty shootout 3-2, as efforts from Jonathan and Ross hit the woodwork and Tom Wren had his penalty saved.
Despite the sting of defeat, there were lots of positives to take away from the match for the Panthers. Strong defending and excellent work in midfield and on the wings kept the hosts frustrated throughout, and it was only an unlucky melee that saw the Panthers concede. Certainly a stronger result than when the two teams met in the GFSN league. And once again, Phoenix proved to be friendly and welcoming rivals who were a joy to compete against!
We wish Phoenix well for their quarter-final match up in Scotland, and Panther thoughts now turn to our next league game on Saturday against Leicester Wildecats. Congratulations too to Ross who was deservedly voted man of the match!