PHC to meet Hood in Friendship semi-final
The top two teams in the Premier Division and First Division were drawn to face each other in the Friendship Trophy and Shield semi-final draw yesterday.
In matches fitting for the finals, holders PHC Zebras will meet Robin Hood in the Boxing Day semi-final at Lord's while Somerset Eagles will face Southampton Rangers on Sunday at Devonshire Recreation Club in a battle between the two unbeaten teams in the First Division in the Shield semi-final.
Cal Blankendal, Dandy Town assistant coach, was relieved to avoid the top two teams in the Friendship Trophy competition, although he expects their match against Boulevard in the first semi-final will still be a tough one.
“PHC and Hood are the in-form teams, but we have done quite well against them this season,” Blankendal said after the draw, which took place at the Clyde Best Centre of Excellence.
“Boulevard are our crosstown rivals and there's a lot of history between the two. I think it will come down to determination and who wants it more.”
Boulevard won the only meeting thus far this season and are on a good run, with Ian Coke, the team's player-coach, fit again after a knee injury. Coke, a prolific striker, played for Town last season.
“Coke is a goalscorer and a threat, but we have Angelo [Simmons] and we're confident we can get the result,” Blankendal added. “You either win or go home.”
PHC and Hood have met twice this season, with the Zebras winning the Charity Cup in September before the league fixture ended in a goalless draw in October. Hood are the only unbeaten team in the league. Town are fifth and Boulevard seventh, with just a point separating them.
”It's unusual for Dandy Town to be seen as the easier team in the draw, but we recognise where we are,” said Blankendal, whose team have won their past three games, including handing PHC a first league defeat this season.
“I would rather teams underestimate us so we can slip in the door. We'll be ready for whomever we may face, but first we have to get past Boulevard.”
Also on Boxing Day at Lord's, Hamilton Parish will meet Devonshire Colts in the second Shield semi-final. The finals of both competitions will be held on New Year's Day at Somerset Cricket Club.
The Competitions Committee have decided that no team will play at home in the semi-final, hence Boulevard's match taking place at Devonshire Recreation Club.
Eagles and Rangers will play in the opening match on Sunday in what would have been an intriguing Shield final.
“It would have been a great final, but that's football,” Darius Cox, the Rangers captain, said.
“You have to go through the best to get to a final and we just have to prepare well.”
Rangers had to come from a goal down to beat St George's in extra time in their quarter-final on Sunday. “Since I've been in the First Division, St George's have always given me a hard time,” Cox admitted.
“They are one of the most physical teams I've played against. I haven't played against Bridge [this season] yet, but I'm looking forward to it.
“I was away when we last met [a 2-2 draw], so I'm looking forward to playing against them this weekend.”
Shannon Burgess, the chairman of the Competitions Committee, confirmed that a new ruling introduced this season allows for a fourth substitution to be made in extra-time in the cup competitions. North Village and Hood both made a fourth substitution in extra time in their match last weekend, a 5-2 win for Hood.
“Each year, the competitions committee looks at the various regulations to see where enhancements can be made,” Burgess said. “Often we take guidance from Fifa or other high-profile leagues. Last year, we looked at the FA Cup and there were a few amendments to the regulations, which we then followed.
“For this season, there was a decision made to have a fourth substitute to cup competitions. In extra-time, a coach is allowed that extra sub. There are reasons why that was implemented, player fatigue perhaps, and we thought it was a good idea to implement it within our cup competitions.
“So, the FA Cup, Friendship and Dudley Eve Trophy regulations were amended to allow fourth substitutions.”
Somerset Eagles v Southampton Rangers (noon)
Dandy Town v Boulevard (2.30)
Hamilton Parish v Devonshire Colts (noon)
Robin Hood v PHC (2.30)
New Year’s Day
Finals at Somerset Cricket Club (noon and 2.30)