Panthers Pounce to Book Place in Final
The Magpies' defence was finally breached on 20 minutes. The Panthers left winger showed great skill to break into the box, beat several players, ride Horsley's challenge and bury a shot past Pafford. Five minutes later, the same player and a similar result, brought St Paul's level. Loxwood were now completely on the back foot and struggling to get out of their half. The defence dropped deeper in an effort to combat the deep, searching, wide balls and invited more pressure. St Paul's finally got their reward, with a third goal minutes before half time.
Still very much in the game, the second half brought renewed impetus from Loxwood. Suddenly it was the Magpies finding the deep, wide balls and testing the St Paul's defensive resolve once more. The Panthers proved up to the challenge and the game developed into an end-to-end encounter, both defences cancelling out the attacking play. Once again, Harry Comber was excellent in the defensive midfield role, breaking up the play and moving the ball and Tom Maybury was very strong at right-back. Loxwood's efforts were rewarded with a corner from Hunter that fell invitingly, ricocheted around the box, but no one was able to get a strong enough effort on goal to see it in. The missed opportunity was to prove costly as the Panther's broke down the right, delivered a cross, which eventually fell to the left winger, whose effort went through Pafford's hands and tamely into the back of the net. It was a disappointingly soft goal to concede, but proved to be the turning point in the match. With a two goal cushion, St Paul's grew in confidence and Loxwood's ebbed away. A few minutes later the Panthers extended their lead with a fine effort from the middle of the box.
Loxwood refused to give up. Hunter again provided a wonderful corner and with a free header, Lillywhite met it with the top off his head and harmlessly over the bar. With ten minute to go, Loxwood conceded a sixth with a fine effort from the edge of the box. It was harsh on a spirited Magpies, who now sensed another hefty defeat. Credit to Loxwood, they held on well and nearly grabbed a third late-on. Hicken chased a long ball over the top from Toby Chandler, beat his defender for strength and pace, but powered his shot narrowly wide.
It was a great effort by Loxwood, but St Paul's proved the better side and deserved the win. There were many positives for a rapidly improving Magpies team and the boys can look forward to their next matches with even more confidence. As for St Paul's, the Club wishes them great luck in next week's final and hope they can put in a creditable performance against top-of-the-table Guildford Saint Hawks.
Team: Keagan Pafford, Josh Arnold, Mikey Arlett, Will Dixon, Theo Rawlins, Harry Comber, Tom Lillywhite, Louis Horsley, Toby Chandler, Harry Hunter, Ben Hicken, Tom Maybury, Tom Pearce, George Lillywhite.
Goals: Hunter, Hicken
MoM: Harry Comber