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posted 7 Dec 2014, 15:20 by Simon McCabe

Several of Wareham’s travelling supporters, myself included, stood on a windy touchline at 1400 on Sunday with some trepidation, wondering whether Wareham Rangers U12s could avoid embarrassment against table-topping Lytchett Red Triangle, two leagues above them.  Well shame on us for doubting them: the boys went toe to toe with the home side, and came within 5 minutes of a Cup shock every bit as dramatic as Hereford United v Newcastle (’72), Bournemouth v Man Utd (’84) and Wrexham v Arsenal (’92).  If you are too young to remember these, boys, look them up: it was that good.

Any concern that Wareham might be overwhelmed was dispelled in the 3rd minute when an attack by Harry ended with a dangerous ball across the face of goal, only for an unfortunate bobble to rob Joe of a tap in.  Lytchett eventually showed their class, mounting repeated attacks on the Wareham goal only to be foiled by a solid back line of Luke, Ethan and Gabe, who was outstanding in central defence.  They were helped out in front by Alfie, Joe, Harry and Dannon, with Christian up front in what at times looked like an unfamiliar 7-0-1 formation.  On the occasions when this formidable barrier was seriously breached, James was behind them to either save or show excellent judgement in coming out to bravely pluck the ball from the feet of marauding attackers.  To go in at half-time with the score at 0-0 was a tremendous achievement.  The corner count at the change of ends – six to none – attested to Lytchett’s territorial dominance, but ‘Braveheart’ defending by Wareham prevented them from capitalising on it.

The second half started as the first had ended, with successive Lytchett attacks.  But while often under the cosh, Wareham always looked capable of causing problems on the counter-attack, and the tension was so high that when one such move relieved it 10 minutes into the second half, the visiting fans lost all decorum: Christian picked the ball up in his own half, left Lytchett’s defence eating the turf which flew from the clean pair of heels he showed them, worked the ball on to his trusty left foot and rippled the Lytchett net to make it 0-1 to Wareham.  Cue ecstatic celebrations.

Lytchett came back like a wounded animal, mounting wave after wave of attacks.  After a succession of well-saved shots their coach was heard to plead ‘could we try putting one either side of the keeper please?’.  A harsh judgement both on his talented forwards, and the safe pair of hands which James ‘The Cat’ Kimberley has become this season.  With so much last ditch defending in the first half, CaLlum, George, Nathan and Samuel brought desperately needed fresh legs in the second and joined the rest of the team in putting in an energetic and resilient shift under pressure.

Just as it looked like Wareham might pull off a famous victory, and the travelling fans were swelling with pride, cruel fate intervened when what looked like an accidental but clear Lytchett handball trickled over the Wareham goal line.  However, a corner was awarded and from the resultant set piece,  Lytchett picked up the loose ball to level the score at 1-1.  Shortly after, a Lytchett attacker nicked the ball off George, on for Luke at half-time, in a firm challenge which saw the Wareham right back taken off injured (and leaving him ‘doubtful’ for school on Monday, according to a slightly dubious self-diagnosis).  In another cruel twist, the subsequent cross bounced around like a pinball before being deflected into the net by a Wareham defender’s leg.  I could not see whose: he was face down in the turf with his head in his hands, summing up how the whole team and travelling support felt at that point.  Whoever it was, there was no need for his head to drop: sympathy, not blame, was the only reasonable response to the misfortune, and his boots and body were no doubt among those which were flung in front of Lytchett shots time and again during that torrid second half onslaught.  Lytchett grew in confidence once their noses were in front, and Wareham faltered just once more, as the home team lashed in a third goal a few minutes before the end.  The final score did not do justice to Rangers’ battling spirit, nor the small margins by which their chance of cup glory was lost.

Manger Darren Mears commented: ‘We rode our luck at times but I thought the lads acquitted themselves magnificently this afternoon.  To remain 1-0 up, until the final 5 minutes of the match, against a side at the top of two divisions above us is great testament to how far we have come as a unit over the past year or so.  The heroics shown today in all departments has made the coaching staff and supporters extremely proud’.

Pete Moore 7.12.14