Battle Baptist Football Club powered into the National Christian Cup final with a convincing home victory.
The Macron East Sussex Football League high-flyers won 5-1 against South London side Christ Central in yesterday’s (Saturday’s) semi-final at Battle Recreation Ground.
Battle opened up a two-goal lead and although Christ Central got one back before half time, the hosts pulled away with three unanswered goals during the second period.
The game got off to a dramatic start, with both teams having attempts at goal in the first 70 seconds. Battle forward Dean Boyd saw an attempted lob deflected into the side-netting after getting on the end of a long kick downfield by goalkeeper Jake Rudwick, who moments later was required to make a save as the visitors got in behind Battle’s defence.
Battle soon got on top, though, as their determination to win back possession often forced errors out of the opposition and helped earn a number of first half corners.
The Baptists opened the scoring with a moment of individual brilliance in the 10th minute. The ball popped up in the air inside the Christ Central box and Yordan Yordanov unleashed a breathtaking scissor kick from around 15 yards which flashed into the net.
Battle seemed well in control for a while thereafter and although Chris Central then started to get a foothold in the game around the midway point in the first half, the Baptists doubled their lead in the 28th minute.
Yordanov’s shot from the edge of the box at the end of a good move involving Mark Dowling and Adam Higgins-Gooch was tipped over, but from the resulting Boyd corner, the unmarked Dale Vinall slid in to volley home from six yards.
Christ Central, who wore a Brentford FC home strip, pulled one back out of nowhere really two minutes later. A decent piece of play on the away left ended with a cross being steered home on the volley from close range by the visitors’ right-sided midfielder.
Battle soon put that behind them, however, and Boyd - who took corners from the right with his left foot and those from the left with his right - had four more attempts at goal before the break.
He firstly fired over from the tightest of angles and then saw a sweetly-struck shot from the edge of the area whistle just over. He pulled another effort just wide seconds later and shortly before half time poked narrowly over having beaten the outrushing goalkeeper to Yordanov’s clever ball over the top.
Battle probably deserved more than a one-goal lead at half time, but they started the second period slowly and Christ Central enjoyed their best spell of the match, albeit without giving Rudwick much to worry about.
The Baptists gradually got into their stride again and restored their two-goal cushion in highly controversial fashion in the 65th minute.
A Christ Central defender handled Boyd’s cross clearly believing the Battle player had run the ball out of play, but the linesman’s flag wasn’t raised and the referee awarded a penalty, much to the visitors’ obvious dismay. Scott Vickers’ spot-kick was saved, but he steered home the rebound.
Battle put the result beyond doubt with a fourth goal just three minutes later. Boyd delivered a free kick from the right and substitute Finlay Garlick, who had only been on the pitch 10 minutes, slid in to turn the ball home from six yards.
Christ Central played with three up-front during the latter stages, but Battle were by now in complete command and appeared likely to add to their tally.
Dowling went just wide with a 25-yard free kick, as did Vinall with a shot from the edge of the D. The industrious Trystan Mayhew brought a save out of the away goalkeeper, who also repelled Garlick’s follow-up.
The Baptists did get a fifth goal in the 90th minute. A couple of players couldn’t get hold of their shots in the Christ Central box, but Garlick certainly did and his volley flew in to put the icing on the cake.
Battle will meet opposition from Liverpool in the final on a date and at a venue to be confirmed, but probably a Football League ground some time in May.
Battle: Rudwick; Rafati, Vickers (K. Mayhew 87), Saunders, Dowling; Loates (Garlick 58), T. Mayhew, Vinall, Yordanov; Boyd (Woodhams 83), Higgins-Gooch.
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