Elim entered the Leicester / Coventry cup for only the second time in the history and drew FC Kings in the preliminary round of the tournament away. The 38 mile trip north was a historic day for Elim as this would be the first game Elim would have played in their history in the city of Leicester (I know world mark this historic day). Elim’s only ever appearance previously was a 2-0 loss at home in War Memorial Park. Elim came into this game in really good form, winning 3 games on the bounce in the league. The Leicester cup had the rule of rotational subs throughout the game, which meant more game time for all Elim players on the bench than usual.
Hughes and Baldwin had a frantic chase around for a keeper 12 hours before kick-off with all three Elim keepers not available. Tai a historic legend of Elim would answer the call and would be wearing the number one top for the first in 6 years. Elim made two other changes to the 10-1 win against Wanderers. Paul Watkins and Matthew Moroney both not around for this fixture would be replaced with Corey Smith and Kevin Kirugi. Kirugi slotted in at right back with Watts, Reid and Matewe keeping their places in defence. The midfield four of J Smith, Manager Hughes, Captain Jones and Assistant Manager Baldwin. Up top, Dirna would be joined alongside C Smith. Hassan, was joined on the bench by Benni and Home.
The players gathered on the half way line prior to the game to have a group prayer before the action started and Elim would be getting this game under way in 2 degree temperatures. The game kicked off with both teams having great passing succession in the middle, which would lead to a buggy middle section as the game would get on. J Smith was lively as ever on the wing and kept the left back warm and on his toes. It was Baldwin that would create the first real chance whipping a long ball in back post to find fwllow winger J Smith to bullet header the ball against the post. The ball had beating the keeper all ends up but not enough accuracy to break the deadlock. Dirna and Smith would have some shots from range that despite accuracy the keeper would deal with comfortably.
Watts and Reid would keep the long balls at bay cleaning up all attacks and breaking them down quickly. Sadly Watts would pull up with a pulled muscle on the 20th minute. Hassan would come in for the centre back, leading to a reshuffle of the team. Matewe joined Reid at centre back, Baldwin went to left back and Hassan played ahead of the full back. Kirugi was enjoying a rare start winning a number of headers in the middle and Hughes and Jones partnership was blossoming in the middle keeping to defensive duties. On the 30th minute C Smith and Kirugu would be replaced by Benni and Home to keep the team fresh.
The controversial point on 37th minute would come from a cross on the left hand side. The ball was whipped in from a couple of yards to strike Baldwin’s elbow which was tucked in. One player called for the penalty which was enough for the referee to assert his authority and point to the spot. A number of the away players protested but the ref stated ‘there was no intent but the ball hit the hand and I have made my decision’. The ball on the spot for the second game in a row, whilst Elim players scratching heads on this matter. The kick was taking and FC Kings in ruthless fashion made it count with the first shot on target in the back of the net. The keeper guessed right but the accuracy was deadly.
The ref found himself shortly after in another talking point that went against Elim, the ball played into Hassan to slot away to run off celebrating. The flag would come up late and the equaliser ruled off, without even a VAR check. Elim feeling sorry for themselves would find themselves 2-0 on the stroke of half time with Reid blocking a shot to fool Tai and send the ball in to the Elim net. Reid on the scoresheet put not how he would of wanted.
Half time approached and the Elim talk was about the next 45 minutes digging deep and fighting for the pride of Coventry. It would be the captain Jones that would next come close. Baldwin swung in the ball for the keeper to clip it on Jones head to find the bar. The bar wasn’t finished saving shots all over. A Baldwin cross would next evade the keeper and smash off the bar and then Reid would header a Dirna cross against the bar too. The bar at this point had saved more shots than both keepers combined. Despite the pressure Elim applied to get the next goal FC Kings would beat the offside trap and tap in the third and decisive goal to kill Elim dreams of making it to the 1st round.
C Smith and Kirugi came back into the game for Dirna and Hughes. The problem with Elim this season is they don’t know when there beat and C Smith was about to put the game back in the balance using tricky to turn his man and slot home for the second game on the bounce. Home and Jones rolled up the sleeves and grafted chasing every ball and kept the smooth passing going.
Finally the ref would give Elim a break and only book their keeper with a last man challenge. Tai left alone brought down the striker on the edge of the box for the keeper to be shown a generous yellow card. Matewe was covering but for Elim Christmas had come early and just like the Grinch at Christmas the refs heart grew. The cross came in and Reid cleared the dead piece shot off the line. The Elim consolation had added a bit of spice to the game and Matewe was ready to play, putting in some fantastic tackles to break up play. Matewe can tackle beautifully but when this Liverpool fan tries to strike a ball on edge of the box look away. Matewe used all his power to miskick the ball, searching for his first goal in an Elim shirt.
Elim would get the score to 4-2 with another man scoring two in two, Hassan deep into stoppage time, the striker would hit a solid shot on target to bring the shoreline more respectful. A little too late from the Pentecostal church as the final whistle was blown. On behalf of all of Elim a really enjoyable game which had cards, drama, talking points, goals and played with a great spirit from Elim and Kings. It’s not many times you walk away from a game thinking I could not be proud of the lads for giving this club and church everything. Well done too all involved.
The usual special mentions, firstly thank you for FC Kings for hosting us. The game was played in a spirit of respect and integrity and we wish you all the best in this tournament. Next Corey Smith I would like to congratulate the striker on his man of the match, he was closely followed by FC Kings bar for those 4 great saves Thank you Tai for helping Elim out last minute, even though your joint Elim dirtiest player this season. Final thank you to our gaffer for organising this fixture let’s roll on to Lowfor’s this weekend and bounce back quickly.