The postponement of last weeks County Cup tie due to adverse weather meant Dunipace came into this home Scottish Cup tie versus Arsenal BC high in confidence following a 100% winning start to the season, 8 from 8 in all competitions. Having played the previous two rounds away from home, the return to Westfield was a welcome change for the young side with a place in the last 32 up for grabs.
As it turned out this fledgling Pace squad, carrying genuine ambitions on challenging for this prize come May, were given a stark reminder that nothing can be taken for granted in football. During a rather blowy 90 minutes on the heavy Westfield surface the young Pace never reached anywhere near the levels they have set themselves to this point, allowing their visitors to take full advantage and progress into the draw for the last 32.
It started reasonably well for Dunipace, playing some decent football against the wind and working the ball out from the back well, if somewhat slower than normal, with Brown causing problems from the off winning a corner on the left after latching onto a good through ball from Taylor.
From the corner Swords found Brown with a free header 6 yards out with everyone expecting the man who had scored in all 6 games he had featured, 15 in total, to find the back of the net. The big man though couldn't get over the ball and headed over, perhaps the chance coming too early in the game.
Jackson in the home goal had very little to do as Dunipace were the team in the early ascendancy creating two chances for Comrie in quick succession. Firstly McIntyre found Mitusch with a good throw in and a superb touch inside from the wide man released Comrie on the crossover, the attacker firing over with his left from 18 yards.
Moments later Steven linked with Swords on the left, Swords fouled 25 yards out with the official awarding the free kick. Swords dusted himself off and delivered to Comrie who got across his marker well and headed towards goal, forcing a fantastic save from the Arsenal keeper, instinctively throwing his hand out to tip over the bar.
From the corner Dunipace captain Balmer was aggrieved that the official had ignored the manhandling of the Dunipace attackers in the area as he was wrestled to the ground with the ball nowhere close. In truth, this was something that the official didn't see as a foul all afternoon despite the visiting defence getting pretty intimate with the Dunipace attack at every set play!
Dunipace continued to exert pressure on the visiting goal but the Arsenal keeper was standing up to everything coming his way, making a fantastic double save on 20 minutes. Brown collected on the left before beating 2 mean and forcing a fine stop from the keeper from 8 yards on the angle. A good save, but more impressive were his reactions as he picked himself up to make a fantastic diving save to block the rebound from Steven from 12 yards.
Despite having the wind advantage Arsenal never troubled Jackson in the home goal in the opening 20 minutes, but the stopper did have to field his first attempt on goal just after 25 minutes, holding a low strike from 20 yards at the second attempt.
Dunipace created further chances for Comrie and Steven, neither able to get their shot away from inside 12 yards following good build up play as Dunipace were continually over intricate in the box rather than getting a shot on goal and making the Arsenal keeper continue the impressive form he showed early on.
Having failed to convert any of their chances the levels of the Dunipace performance, which were below normal to begin with, dropped further and Arsenal took advantage creating their best chance of the half on 32 minutes. A poorly defended throw in led to the ball being fed into the wide midfielder with his back to goal 25 yards out. His first touch was excellent, spinning Balmer and heading into the channel before pulling a wonderful cross along the 6 yard line with the striker only managing to get a toe on it from 6 yards and turning wide.
Despite creating the good chances that they had and being a strong goalkeeping performance from being at least 1 ahead this was a let-off for Dunipace as Arsenal showed that they were capable of creating chances themselves. It was though, unfortunately, not a warning the home side took heed of as they squandered 2 more good chances before falling behind from the penalty spot.
Arsenal's right winger, who was having a growing influence on the game, took advantage of another poorly defended throw in and drove inside the box towards the bye line. As it looked as though he was heading out of play he hit the ground under challenge from Swords, the official pointing to the spot.
It looked from the sidelines a clear penalty, but you can tell a lot by player reactions with Swords, Balmer, Taylor and Walker all in close attendance and adamant that the official had got it wrong. Despite the accusations a penalty it was and the Arsenal taker made no mistake sending Jackson the wrong way for 1-0.
As the half drew to a close neither team created anything of real note so 1-0 it was at half time.
Playing against the strong wind and having created so many chances while restricting their visitors to very little, Dunipace had little to panic about at half time despite the below par performance, but in truth they never picked themselves up in the second half and it was as comfortable against the wind as Arsenal could have hoped.
In fact, with neither side having created anything of note in the opening 20 minutes of the half, Arsenal extended their lead with the first chance for either side on 65. The Dunipace players were upset at the award of the throw to their visitors as it clearly came off the Arsenal player, but their poor approach to defending the throw in could not be laid at the door of the official.
Decisions will go against you, players have no control over that, but you still have to defend the situation. To lose a second goal in such poor fashion from a throw near the corner flag is within the players control, so they can blame no-one but themselves for going 2-0 down. A simple throw into an area led to the ball being cut back to the edge of the box and the Arsenal midfielder firing low to Jacksons right from 18 yards under no pressure.
Dunipace, with 20 minutes remaining and 2-0 down replaced the tiring Swords and Comrie with Maclaren and Weir, before Mitusch came off for King and they moved to a 4-3-3 in search of a route back into the game. And their route came from a free kick on the left.
Steven linked well with Brown to win the foul, with Steven delivering to the back post in search of any one of the Dunipace players in that area, the ball missing everyone and finding the back of the net. Fortunate to say the least, but at this stage Dunipace would take anything that they could get.
So, 15 minutes remaining and Dunipace had given themselves an outside chance of salvaging the game and they nearly did just that through Maclaren on 80 minutes as he got on the end of a good ball from MacIntyre to head narrowly wide. It wasn't to be the last chance for the midfielder as he found the gloves of the Arsenal keeper moments later with a strike low to his right, a comfortable save.
The next save was far from comfortable though as Maclaren, making a positive impact, drew the save of the game with a well hit volley from 18 yards after combining with Steven, the keeper diving full stretch to his left to turn behind for a corner.
As Dunipace continued to press for the equaliser Brown latched onto a through ball from Maclaren to shoot well wide with his left from 12 yards from a tight angle before the last real chance of the game fell to McIntyre. Taylor floated a free kick from the left to the back post where Balmer knocked across goal well, McIntyre turning goalward from 5 yards but not getting the contact he wanted and seeing it comfortably fielded by the keeper.
Dunipace could have no complaints about the amount of injury time played as the official added nearly 5 minutes to cover the slowing of the game that Arsenal had employed every time the ball went out after they went 2-0 up, not a criticism in any way as Dunipace would have done exactly the same, but as the whistle went Dunipace found themselves losing 2-1 and bowing out of the competition at the last 64 stage.
Despite creating the better chances in the game Dunipace did not do enough to deserve to be in the hat for the next round, falling well below their own standards. That is the simple truth of things. The quality in this squad should have seen them progress further into this competition and they will be disappointed at the manner of the defeat as much as anything as they went out playing at a fraction of what they are capable.
With that said, the main goal of the team is to improve the group with a view to progressing as many as possible into our first team. In that regard there is something to take from every game and this should serve as a valuable learning experience for everyone in the squad should they make that step up: This is a game when you can ill afford to leave anything on the park in any game and games are never won by potential on paper.
We wish Arsenal well for the next round and remainder of their season and extend our thanks for their kind words of thanks following the hospitality put on by the club following the game.