Southern Amateur League drew their final qualifier but missed out on a place at next summer's Finals.
UEFA Regions' Cup Intermediary Round
Friday 31 October 2008
The Southern Amateur League, representing England, drew their final game of their UEFA Regions' Cup qualifying tournament in Italy, but narrowly missed out on a place in next summer's Finals.
Bob Leeds' outfit finished third in the group, without conceding a goal, meaning it's the Republic of Ireland, represented by Region I, who will head to the UEFA Regions' Cup.
Mini-tournament hosts Italy finished level with England and Ireland on five points, but after the trio all drew their head to heads, it was the manor of their victories over Scotland that determined the table-toppers.
England's 3-0 win earlier in the week was slightly better than Italy's 3-1 scoreline. Ireland knew that if they could win in their final game by a four goal margin, and Italy drew with the Southern Amateur League, then they'd be heading to the Finals.
And that was how it worked out as The FA NLS Cup Winners played out a stalemate against the Italians as Ireland ran out comfortable 5-1 victors over the Scottish.
Team manager Leeds made one change to his starting line-up with Mark Henry returning after injury, but it was the home side that almost snatched an early lead when a free kick from Massaro was met by the head of Pepe. His effort was excellently tipped over the bar by the ever reliable Dan Ashley.
The early pace of the game died a little as half time approached but there was a flurry of activity just before the break.
On 42 minutes Osman Akkaya was shown a yellow card for a foul on Casella and then a minute later only a last ditch tackle by Adam Freeman prevented Massaro reaching a through ball following an error by Chris Shaw.
On the stroke of half-time the SAL almost took the lead when an Alex Ewin header from an Akkaya corner was cleared off the line by Casella.
England continued to press the Italians at every opportunity after the turn-around but again they seemed to lack that cutting edge that would provide the all important goal. On 52 minutes Leeds made his first change with Akkaya being replaced by Michael Ayres.
However, it was the home side that almost snatched the lead ten minutes later when Roano, seeing keeper Ashley off his line, tried an audacious lob from 35 yards, which clipped the top of the bar.
The Italians were soon down to ten men when Massaro was shown a red card for stamping on Shaw, but the SAL couldn't make then advantage count.
With 15 minutes the SAL had the best opportunity of the match when Ewin blazed over the bar when a cross from Violet found the Nottsborough striker free in the six yard box.
Time was fast running out but the SAL were still pushing forward and this nearly cost them a goal in stoppage time when Italian substitute Poi broke clear and sent a shot just wide of the goal.
The whistle sounded with the teams still level and with news coming through from Tortona of the Republic of Ireland’s 5-1 victory over their Scottish opponents, the European adventure for the Southern Amateur League was over. A journey, which began back in the early part of 2007 against the Kent County League, finally ended on a murky afternoon in northern Italy.
The team can be proud of their performance, unbeaten in their three games and keeping three clean sheets, but even that was not enough to progress in the competition. Instead it's the Irish eyes firmly focused on the prize next summer.Photos: Phil Mingo - www.ppauk.com