Somerset County League Premier & First Division Cup

Minehead 3, Staplegrove 1

THE Blues stormed into a two-goal lead in the first six minutes of this semi-final tie.

The first goal came within 30 seconds from Luke Howells, who headed home at the end of a six-man move before Staplegrove had taken a meaningful touch of the ball.

Guy Burns’ angled shot was tipped around the post for a corner and, just five minutes after the first goal, Minehead went two up when debutant Haydn Phippen volleyed home a deep cross at the far post with the confidence of an experienced pro.

Midway through the half, the Grove’s first real attempt on goal was a fine header from Dave Kelland that needed a superb full length save from Kyran Wilkins, who pushed the ball onto the post before it was cleared.

After home captain Mike Mullen limped out of the game on the half hour, Minehead seemed to lose their impetus and ten minutes from half time their lead was reduced to a solitary goal when dangerman Joe Wilkinson ran on to a through ball to beat Wilkins from 10 yards out.

The second half saw Grove come out looking to get back on terms quickly.

After centre half Luke Oliver headed a golden opportunity just over, Wilkinson was guilty of a similar miss when his header from close range went wide.

Jack Lewis was next to go close when he volleyed over when well placed and Kelland went closer still when his header went inches wide of the foot of the post.

Minehead responded well but Matty Harvey failed to put away what appeared to be a routine tap-in to the open goal after substitute Rob Vickers’ shot was parried by keeper Shaun Locke.

The game then seemed to turn into a personal contest between Blues keeper Wilkins and Grove top scorer Wilkinson.

Firstly, Wilkins expertly saved the striker’s shot on the turn, and then Ross Edwards volleyed over the bar from the edge of the box after Wilkinson’s shot had come back off the crossbar.

Sandwiched between two yellow cards shown to Grove players, Wilkins again saved from Wilkinson, and shortly after the keeper saved another shot on goal from substitute James Kelland, using his feet to block a powerful shot.

Wilkinson then appeared to get the better of the keeper when he rounded him on the edge of the six-yard box but, after being forced wider than he would have hoped, put his shot wide of the open goal.

With time ticking away from the Grove, Wilkins made yet another save to keep out Wilkinson’s header before Minehead sealed the tie in the final minute when after a jinking run from the impressive Howells had taken him through the heart of the defence.

He squared to Vickers who side-footed confidently home from 12 yards out to book Minehead’s place in the final against Premier Division side Middlezoy Rovers on Tuesday, May 14, with the venue yet to be confirmed.

Gerry Hatrick Man of the Match: Kyran Wilkins

Minehead: Kyran Wilkins, Stefan Phillips, Lee Todd, Keynone Blight, Matt Cracknell, Mike Mullen, Callum Barnfield, Luke Phillips, Matty Harvey, Guy Burns, Haydn Phippen

Subs: Cody Truscott, Rob Vickers, Matty Ronan (all used), Dan Vickers.

This weekend sees two home matches which will have a huge impact on the Blues’ promotion aspirations with firstly on Saturday when Uphill Castle provide tough opposition.

The Weston-based club are enjoying a good run of form and are currently two points behind their hosts.

Second placed Keynsham Town Reserves, who are currently six points ahead of Minehead having played a game more, come to the Rec on Easter Monday.

Two victories will be essential to keep in the hunt for promotion, with three difficult away games remaining to complete the league season.

The week continues with another important game on Wednesday when they play an evening kick off at Staplegrove in another must win match.