Going in to Saturday, there was everything to play for at the top of GFSN league 2. And after a gruelling 90 minutes, Panthers battled out a 1-1 draw away at Leicester Wildecats which means this year's promotion race is going to go right down to the wire.
The Panthers started very strong in the first half, winning the ball early after the kick off and using the strong midfield to push forward. Dean, Tom Wren, Stu, and Charlie did great work keeping possession in the midfield, and Tom Marlow and Luke made strong runs up the wings to trouble the Wildecats defence. It was on the counter that the Wildecats showed most promise, but the back three of Ross, JD and Devon largely kept the attackers pinned back.
The Panthers had the bulk of the chances in the first half, but the Panthers had the first scare at their end, when goalkeeper Adam deftly tipped a strike over the crossbar. Similarly at the other end, the Panthers saw a shot on target foiled as the Wildecats goalkeeper palmed the ball into the bar, before the Wildecats were able to clear the danger. The Panthers tried to press to break the deadlock before half time, but both sides went into the break goalless.
The second half, the Panthers came out determined to draw first blood, with Scott coming on for Stu and trying to push the ball up to strikers Mike Green and Chris Miles. Like the first half, however, Leicester were at their most dangerous on the counterattack. Kev Basham who came on at half time had to contend with some nippy play from the Wildecats attackers. Unfortunately it was Leicester who would push ahead after a penalty was awarded against the Panthers after a challenge in the penalty area. In the melee, keeper Adam had sustained an injury, but still came within inches of saving the Wildecats' penalty. Sadly, his efforts weren't enough and the Wildecats went 1-0 up.
The Panthers were suddenly chasing the game, and they brought on some more attacking firepower, bringing on Alex K for Tom Wren. The team kept their heads, despite slipping behind (though Scott made an impact and picked up a yellow card for a late challenge). And their efforts were rewarded when the Panthers caused a scramble in the Wildecats' box, and Chris Miles slipped the ball past the Leicester keeper for a vital equaliser.
With 10 minutes left to try and eke out a winner, Pete came on to boost the Panthers' defence. The Panthers would have some heartbreak, however, as they earned a penalty with minutes left on the clock. Unfortunately, they couldn't convert the chance, and the Wildecats caused a scare on the break, with new goalkeeper Charlie having to pull off an important save. In the last moments of the game, the Panthers would have another injury scare as Luke went down hard on his knee, bringing Tom Wren on for one last heave. Despite pushing forward again, however, Panthers just couldn't capitalise with a winner, leaving both sides having to share the vital points.
It was a hard-fought match for both teams - and the Panthers were gutted to leave without the three points. But a draw keeps both clubs' promotion hopes alive going into their final matches of the season. Charlie picked up the man of the match award (and JD picked the winner on the Grand National). Most importantly, the whole team enjoyed a great weekend, and we're all looking forward to what the rest of the season brings (once everyone has recovered from their injuries!)