There's a chill back in the air and the nights are drawing in, so it can only mean one thing, yes the Cambridgeshire Invitation Cup is back on the fixture list. Maybe it's not one of the most glamorous competitions in the calendar and the fact that it coincides with a drop in the temperature and is usually on the same night as Champions League games means that attendances aren't great it has a special place in my affections. First of all the mixture of the usual step 5 suspects, glorified pub teams and the local 'big' teams means that there is a chance to see other teams, put a decent run together and get to a few away games at grounds you wouldn't normally visit. The first season I was down here Ely put together a decent run taking in a mammoth comedy of errors and number of games against Great Shelford, a fine win away to Soham and an unlucky defeat at Cambridge City. The last two seasons though have been a bit of a disappointment with a dreadful thrashing by CRC in 2009 being followed by a an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Fulbourn Institute in 2010. One thing to note is that all of the recent cup games all of the 5 games that I have mentioned apart from the CRC game went to extra time.
Last night it was Over Sports who Ely needed to overcome to get into the next round. Ely had to and decided to make several changes but the reserves had recently drawn with Over Sports in the County League, so it should have been a routine win for the Robins, but it was cold and it was the cup so everything pointed to the game going over 90 minutes.
The first 20 minutes saw Ely dominating and looking a lot better than the Over Sports and the unusually vocal support seemed to be spurring the team on. Taz Chisonga was finally given his first start and was causing the defence all sorts of problems and Ryan Cotton, who had an undistinguished spell at the club previously after being released by Peterborough and has more recently been at Soham was impressive at right back, which was just as well as Adam Dalby has just left for Sudbury.
Not surprisingly with all the pressure that Ely were exerting Taz put the Robins ahead with a header on 22 minutes. Ely didn't seem happy with this and pushed for a second, but on 31 minutes with their first foray into the Ely box were awarded a penalty, but it missed and Ely went into the break with a 1-0 lead.
The second half promised to have more of the same and on 53 minutes Nick Impey went on a fine run beating defender after defender before slotting the ball home for a 2-0 win. He could have and perhaps should have squared the ball to Taz, but there was a hint that Taz was offside. After this Ely seemed to calm down a bit. At the same time they looked in control and capable of hitting Over on the break and Ben Lawrence seemed capable of stopping anything that Over threw at the Ely defence and Lee Pacey in goals looked in danger of freezing. So far so good then, but that was about to change.
On 66 minutes Over scored and all of a sudden were back in the match. Ely, as they usually do decided that attack was the best way of defending their lead and it almost paid off. On 70 minutes a nice bit of ball juggling by Nick Impey resulted in a ferocious shot, but it went just wide and then on 74 minutes Austen Diaper almost forced the ball into the goal with his first touch of the game. When Over did get the ball into Ely's half Ben Lawrence still seemed to be blocking them from getting near Pacey's goal. It was too good to last though and on 84 minutes Over equalised and it looked like we were heading for extra time.
The Ely players were obviously as keen for the game not to go into extra time as the fans were though and threw the kitchen sink at getting the job done. And thankfully a blasted shot from David Wilson found the top corner of the goal and Ely were in the next round, we'd seen another 5 goals and it was done in the 90 minutes, well 94 instead of 120.