THE PUSH for an unprecedented treble by in-form BULWELL was dashed by a shock defeat in the semi-finals of the Notts FA Intermediate County Cup.
Notts Senior League (NSL), Senior Division high-fliers Bulwell went into the tie on the back of a sparkling 19-match unbeaten run.
And as the highest-ranked side left in the competition, they were long odds-on to lift the county cup.
But they slumped to a giantkilling 3-2 defeat at the hands of Southwell St Mary’s, who play a division below them in the NSL.
Now The Bulls must pick themselves up in their chase for the league title and league cup.
Steve Osborne and Terry Witts’s side paid the price for a slow, lethargic start, which handed St Mary’s a fourth minute lead when Robert Haigh planted a free header from one of many dangerous set-pieces fashioned by the home side.
Worse was to come for Bulwell when influential midfielder Jamie Moore limped off injured. And then a golden chance by striker-of-the-moment Connor Carter was fluffed after an excellent through-ball by his brother, substitute Jamie Carter.
Despite a man-of-the-match performance from Jay Knight, The Bulls really struggled against a hungry and well-organised St Mary’s outfit, who doubled their lead five minutes from the break when defender Chris Murdock was guilty of a blatant push to concede a penalty that Wes O’Rourke smashed home down the middle of the goal.
The lead was no more than St Mary’s deserved — and triggered a verbal blast at half-time from Osborne and Witts, who fetched off Dave Ward and Robbie England.
As a result, The Bulls looked a different outfit in the second period and reduced the deficit within a minute as substitute John Manders coolly chipped the onrushing ‘keeper.
Six minutes later, they were level and it was game on. This time, a route-one ball from goalkeeper James Wheat was flicked on by Connor Carter for top scorer Allan Jeffries to lob the ‘keeper from 30 yards for his first goal since returning from injury.
At this stage, Bulwell looked sure to go on and win. But St Mary’s strength from corners was underlined again when Stewart Gill headed them back in front midway through the half.
It proved to be the clinching goal. Determined Bulwell had most of the possession in the last 20 minutes but couldn’t salvage the tie.
Promotion-chasing St Mary’s now meet NSL, Second Division underdogs West Bridgford in the final at Arnold Town’s Eagle Valley Stadium on Wednesday April 11.
BULWELL LINE-UP — Wheat/ Ward, Murdock, Knight, Soar D., Keetley, England, Moore, Jeffries, Carter C., King. Subs: Carter J. (for Moore 30), Gretton S. (for Ward 45), Manders (for England 45).