After a nervy 90-minute stalemate, the Panthers progressed through to the semi-finals of the GFSN cup after beating the combined Dublin Devils and Cork Rebels team 4-2 on penalties.
Both teams were very evenly matched from the outset, with the visitors particularly strong in their attack. The back 4 of Ross, Richard, Tom and Scott had plenty to do in the first half, as Dublin/Cork made several strong presses on goal. The Panthers had their moments of flair on the counter. Dean, Charlie and Steve worked hard in the midfield to create chances, with wingers Mike and Dan using their pace to push the ball forward to striker Josh. The biggest moment of danger when a handball on the edge of the Panthers' area gave the Devils/Rebels a free kick, but the Panthers were able to see off the threat. While direct chances were few and far between in the first half, both teams put pressure on their opposite numbers, but by half time neither team were able to convincingly break the other's defences.
In the second half, gaffer Kevin made some changes, bringing on Sammy for Steve and switching to a 4-4-1-1 formation. Having added firepower up top created some further chances for the Panthers, with Sammy coming achingly close to breaking the deadlock after getting 1 on 1 with the Irish keeper. Sadly, the keeper's blocking paid off and Sammy's shot went just wide of the post.
An injury to Scott saw JD come on at left back, Chris Miles would switch with Dan, and Rob would come on for Dean May for the final ten minutes. In that time, the Panthers had to see off a number of strong attacks from Dublin/Cork. The visitors secured two corners that created some danger and a free kick on the edge of the area caused brief drama, before Fozzy gathered the ball up safely. Despite both team's efforts to wrap the game up, the whistle blew, meaning both team's fate in the GFSN cup would be decided by penalties.
For the Panthers, Mike, Sammy, Ross, Chris and Scott stepped up to take the penalties. Mike scored the fist penalty comfortably, and further pressure was taken off when Dublin/Cork's shot went wide. Sammy scored her penalty, and then Fozzy pulled off the save of the century to take the Panthers 2-0 up. Ross scored his penalty, but the visitors found the net afterwards, meaning all was not lost for the Devils and Rebels. Further drama came when Chris Miles stepped up but sent his shot over the bar. The Irishmen responded with a successful penalty, leaving the score 3-2 going into the last penalty. Thankfully, Scott kept cool under the pressure, hammered the goal home, and sent the Panthers into the club's first cup semi final in its history!
Jubilation all around for the Panthers, as we await to see who we will face in the semi-finals in February. Thanks to the supporters for both teams who came along and made the atmosphere all the more special! After his heroic save in the shootout, the Player of the Match award deservedly went to Fozzy. Penalties are always euphoric for the winner, but hard for the runner-up and Dublin and Cork can hold their heads very high on giving us a superb challenge and being a formidable but friendly team! We loved welcoming them to Bristol and very much hope we'll get to play them again soon - perhaps a return leg in Ireland next year?