Perry fires Old Cothamians into the semi-final after pitch switch
ROB Perry proved the difference between Suburban League Division Two rivals Oldbury and Old Cothamians on the synthetic surface at Brislington.
The 26-year-old former Torquay United youngster's prowess in front of goal ultimately put paid to league leaders Oldbury's Norman Goulding Cup quest for another year at the quarter-final juncture.
Because the pitch at Oldbury's usual Patchway Community College HQ remained under water following Friday's deluge, the teams agreed to switch the tie to Brislington Enterprise College's 3G artificial pitch.
For a while both sides struggled to adapt to the carpet-like, mud-free qualities of the pitch, but lone marksman Perry was soon away and attempting to capitalise on some hesitancy in the Oldbury defence. But with the prolific striker poised to score, home keeper Liam Skidmore, who was to later suffer an unfortunate sending off, did well to get his body in the way of the shot.
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The skilful Perry then tried an audacious turn and looping shot from some 40 yards out which the Oldbury keeper had to carefully watch drop safely into his gloves, before the forward struck at the third time of asking on 11 minutes.
Midfielder Matt Walsh launched a long punt forward and Perry managed to beat defender and keeper for speed and determination to get between them and steer the ball calmly into an empty net for Old Cothamians' opener.
It was the perfect start for a team who had suffered a 3-0 league defeat at the hands of their opponents back in October and it was to manager Damien Keary's frustration that his Oldbury side were showing little of the form that swept them to victory that day.
They did respond briefly when Liam Christopher cleverly pulled the ball back for fellow forward Paul Mason on the right edge of the Cots box, and while Mason struck it well enough, it took a deflection and drifted behind.
Busy former Patchway Town midfielder Brad Harris fired a free-kick straight into Cots keeper Nick Barraclough's midriff, while at the other end, lively Cothamians winger Joe Haines set off on an adventurous left-sided run from deep before seeing his 20-yard strike safely gathered in by Skidmore.
Late on in the half, Cothamians' new signing Sharief Adrissi had a great chance to double his team's advantage from the edge of the area, but could only mishit his effort well past advancing keeper and post.
Keary issued a few home truths to his players at the break and for the opening 20 minutes of the second half they looked a different outfit, passing the ball more swiftly and precisely and looking every inch Division Two leadership material.
Mason was the first to admit later he should have scored two minutes after the restart. With just the keeper to beat and having got himself perfectly into position in the middle from galloping wing-back Craig Tottle's enticing centre, he could only miscue his finish wide of the near post with not a defender in sight.
Oldbury striker Mason was at the heart of matters again five minutes later when he was brought hard to ground inside the box under a perfectly fair tackle by Aaron Duffett. Experienced ref Alan Rosewell rightly turned down a few hopeful appeals for a penalty, but sadly for the hobbling Mason the crash landing had hurt and he was forced to quit the action moments later, Chris Winch his replacement.
Amid a series of substitutions on both camps' part came a dramatic and decisive turning point midway through the period. Oldbury custodian Skidmore strayed slightly beyond his 18-yard box in order to catch a lengthy Cots goal-kick. After a spell of confusion about the outcome, Rosewell brandished a red card in the goalie's direction and awarded a free-kick to the away side, Perry disappointing on this occasion with a tame and wayward attempt with the dead ball.
Ashley Wells had by now left his previous right wing-back role to take up a new position between the Oldbury sticks in Skidmore's absence and there was little he could do six minutes from time as Haines seized possession midway inside opposition territory before sliding a cool finish past Wells and into the net to double Cothamians' advantage.
A minute later and it truly was all over as a contest. Oldbury failed to deal with a bouncing ball on the left edge of their box and from a tight angle, Perry showed class and composure to roll the loose ball into the far corner of an unguarded net to make it 3-0.
Finally, on the stroke of full-time, deflated Oldbury got on the scoresheet when Harris' corner was flighted perfectly into the middle for centre-back Andrew Marshfield to score with a powerful header, but it was too little, too late, and there was little denying Aaron Tyler's team deserved their semi-final passage on the day.
Oldbury: Liam Skidmore, Andrew Marshfield, Tim Minihane, Tony Thorne, Ashley Wells, Gareth Strange, Brad Harris, Chris Ashton (Dave Walton 70), Craig Tottle, Liam Christopher, Paul Mason (Chris Winch 54).
Old Cothamians: Nick Barraclough, Nik Edwards, Aaron Duffett, Tom Jones, Jomo Lever (Matt Laker 80); Matt Walsh, Luis Balcazar (Ollie White 70); Tom Wakley, Sharief Adrissi (Ruben Nadal 68), Joe Haines; Rob Perry