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Bacon’s Bites: No extra-time in Suffolk FA Cup competitions – is it working?

17 November, 2017 - 12:12
Felixstowe players celebrate after their penalty shoot-out win. Picture: ROSS HALLS

Felixstowe players celebrate after their penalty shoot-out win. Picture: ROSS HALLS

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Mike Bacon discusses Suffolk FA’s decision to scrap extra-time in their cup competitions and Italy’s World Cup demise in his weekly column.

It’s not the end of November yet and already I’ve witnessed two penalty shoot-outs after no extra-time, in two different Suffolk FA County Cup competitions.

Last week it was Woodbridge U18s who succumbed to Kirkley & Pakefield U18s in the Suffolk U18 Midweek Cup. It was 2-2 after 90 minutes so straight to penalties we went – Kirkley won.

While on Tuesday night I saw Stowmarket lose to Felixstowe & Walton on penalties, in the Suffolk Premier Cup, again no extra-time after a 1-1 90-minute game – straight to pens.

“Expect more giant-killing,” said Suffolk FA County Cup competitions manager Adrian Moye, following the decision to scrap extra-time earlier this year.

Well yes, but although that was far from the only reason to scrap extra-time, have Suffolk FA got it right? It’s been a bold move. But do you know what – and I say this, even with my Woodbridge hat on – I like it.

The two games I have seen decided on penalties were both even throughout, no team was getting battered and ‘holding on’ for 90 minutes. But more importantly, the vast majority of, if not all, the supporters stayed to see the shoot-out, as the excitement came to a head.

It was good stuff. It kept the entertainment going for a further 10 minutes or so, no more, and the games had grand finales.

Both matches were good too, as sides pressed for that late winner that would see the dreaded shoot-out made redundant. As the minutes ticked by most of the fans (or most of those who knew it went straight to pens), were keen for their team to make one last attempt to clinch the tie.

Of course extra-time can be thrilling, but let’s be honest, usually it isn’t.

Italian players react to their elimination at the end of the World Cup qualifying play-off second leg soccer match between Italy and Sweden, at the Milan San Siro stadium. Photo: PAItalian players react to their elimination at the end of the World Cup qualifying play-off second leg soccer match between Italy and Sweden, at the Milan San Siro stadium. Photo: PA

No-one wants to concede in a final 30 minutes of extra-time and it can often become turgid as sides take few risks and wait for the inevitable penalties to arrive. Of course there will be a giant-killing or two, but overall if it’s a draw after 90 minutes, then both teams are likely to have claims they could have won it in the 90.

Moye has said the ruling will need time to ‘bed in’, just as the decision to introduce rolling substitutes did three years ago.

“Like any change we will need time to get used to it and not make an immediate knee jerk reaction,” he has said.

I agree.

While I have little sympathy with professional players who moan and groan about there being ‘too much football’, even though most of them only play once, maybe twice a week, train a few hours a day, and certainly don’t hold down a 9-5 ‘other’ job, non-league footballers are very different.

Our young players are playing far too much and many youngsters, as I mentioned last week, are being ‘fast-tracked’ into the adult game too soon for me.

Our more senior non-leaguers are making long journeys to all parts of the country to play, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday. Huge commitment bearing in mind most have full-time jobs and families.

So, even though it may seem a small thing, cutting out extra-time in Suffolk FA Cup competitions has been a cute idea for me.

However, I do hope clubs back the county when they are asked their thoughts on the subject and don’t reject it just because they have been on the receiving end of a giant-killing!

From the inside: Danny King, Kyle Howarth, Nathan Greaves and Jan Graversen in action during the Sheffield v Ipswich play-off final frist leg. The sport can be so exciting, but needs changes.   Picture: Steve Waller    www.stephenwaller.comFrom the inside: Danny King, Kyle Howarth, Nathan Greaves and Jan Graversen in action during the Sheffield v Ipswich play-off final frist leg. The sport can be so exciting, but needs changes. Picture: Steve Waller www.stephenwaller.com

Mixed news this week in the world of international football.

While Iran, Tunisia and Senegal are all celebrating World Cup qualification for Russia 2018, Italy are out, beaten by Sweden in a play-off this week.

Italy’s elimination seems to have sparked mixed reaction around the world, many saying their ‘defensive’ football, won’t be missed, while others proclaim they are still one of the best teams in the world and should be at a World Cup.

I must confess I think the competition will be the poorer for their absence.

Whatever Italy bring, defensively or attacking-wise, they are one of the best teams in the world, if not in what is a strong Europe right now. They have won the World Cup four times.

If FIFA say let’s increase the amount of teams so this type of situation won’t occur in the future. I’d go for that. A World Cup without Italy isn’t something to be happy about.

This weekend it’s the British Speedway Promoters’ AGM, being held in Tenerife. Speedway is such a great sport when it gets it right but some big decisions are now needed to take it forward.

I hope the sun doesn’t go to their heads!

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