The Peacocks overcame an alien artificial playing surface, notable absences, persistent rain and extra time to battle their way through to a third Somerset Premier Cup final in four seasons.
As he had in previous rounds, Leigh Robinson shuffled his pack for this semi-final, but the Peacocks peppered the Keynsham goal in the early stages. Ed Palmer curled a free kick over, then Ross Staley tested Ash Wintle with a wicked drive that the keeper did well to push behind. From the resultant corner, Palmer fired wide.
The best chance of the half though was created by young defender Charlie Melvin-Sparks who picked out Jordan Rogers with a brilliant cross-field ball, but again Wintle was equal to the striker’s shot. Though generally under the cosh, Keynsham were always a threat on the counter attack, and Lloyd Irish was called into action to save from Ben Harris after 25 minutes. A few moments later Harris came even closer, curling a shot inches past the left post.
The second half started with both teams having good chances. Firstly Rogers forced an excellent save from Wintle with a twenty yard drive, then Keynsham top scorer Mike Brown wriggled clear but pushed his shot just wide of Irish’s far post. Craig Duff latched on to a rebound of his own saved shot but just missed the Keynsham goal. However the visitors were only moments away from taking the lead, Rogers getting across the defence to meet a 55th minute Ross Staley corner at the near post and glance the ball home. The lead was short-lived. Harris, soon after having a good shot saved, swung in a free kick from the right and Irish could only push the ball into the path of Brown who made no mistake from close range.
Sniffing an historic win, Keynsham stormed forward. After a deft piece of juggling to set up the opening, Matt Curnock fired just wide, then Irish did well to get a fingertip to a viciously curling Cam Shorney free kick. But the home side’s most presentable chance came ten minutes before the end of regulation time when Brown pounced on a mistake to bear down on goal, but dallied too long over his shot allowing Palmer to get back to clear.
Immediately after replacing Rogers for the start of extra time, Billy Greene had a glorious chance to make a name for himself, but hit the post, and Duff was off target with the rebound. The same misfortune befell Taunton’s final substitute Rhys Ford who crashed a Duff centre against the bar with his first touch after coming on for Craig Veal.
Taunton’s dominance of the additional half hour was finally rewarded when, with penalties just ten minutes away, Palmer stepped up to take a free kick after Staley had been tripped 35 yards out. Few expected a shot, but the centre-half almost ripped the net from its frame with a strike reminiscent of his FA Cup goal at Barrow to send the Peacocks through to a final against Weston-super-Mare.
By James Wright
Taunton: Lloyd Irish, Josh Searle, Charlie Melvin-Sparks, Tom Stone, Ed Palmer (captain), Pierce Mitchell, Craig Duff, Ross Staley, Michael Meaker (Kye Toogood 70), Jordan Rogers (Billy Greene 90), Craig Veal (Rhys Ford 95)
Keynsham: Ash Wintle, Tauren Williams, Nathan Curnock, Jason Adams (captain), Jordan Anstey, Cam Shorney (Matthew Martin 88), Ben Harris, Matt Curnock, Matt Brown (Tom Harris 105), Harvey Baker (Mike Winer 60), Kyle Box. Unused subs: Rob Sheriton, Joe Jackson
Referee: Savvas Yianni (Weston-super-Mare)
Assistants: Kevin Williams (Radstock), Ian Parsons (Bath)