Spot kicks play their part as Pub Cup nears semi-final stage
Regional winners prepare for Festival of Football this weekend
The Premier League season may be over but the football drama has continued at some of the best grounds in the country.
All week, pub teams from across the UK have been battling it out in regional heats for a place in the BT Sport Pub Cup semi-finals at St George’s Park on Sunday.
Putney’s Fox & Hounds were the first to seal their spot in a nail-biting penalty shootout at Loftus Road and now four more places have been confirmed.
Last year’s winners The Liver Vaults were determined to make a strong defence of their title, and so far they have obliged.
They lined-up at Goodison Park along with seven other hopeful sides. The champions won their group comfortably, winning all three games without conceding a goal.
Group B was dominated by the Masons Arms from Billinge (perhaps inspired by a recent trip to Liverpool’s training ground) and the pair were on a collision course to meet in the final.
Nothing could separate two strong sides in open play, which resulted in the dreaded penalty shootout. As they did at the same stage last year The Liver Vaults held their nerve to win, 3-1.
And so to the Hawthorns where two teams again dominated the group stages. Stafford’s Star and Garter and The Bull’s Head from King’s Norton sailed through the group stage with perfect records.
They met in the final where it was the Star and Garter who would return to the pub with the trophy, claiming a 3-0 win to make it through.
The tournament travelled south the next day to arrive at Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium. What followed was one of the tightest group stages so far. Ultimately the two top teams from Group A, Fiveways from Bournemouth and Weymouth’s Famous Old Spa would meet in the final.
The group game between the two was a close affair with the hometown team winning 2-1. They triumphed again in the final, this time with two goals without reply.
24 hours later and the tournament was being played 463 miles north at Hibernian’s Easter Road stadium.
And penalties would dominate again with eventual winners The Butchers Arms, from Newcastle, needing not one but two spot-kick wins to get through. They beat The Globe from Dundee 2-0 in the semis and repeated the score in the final against The Brandy Bar from Shotts to make it through to Burton.
Three more places remain up for grabs and these will be confirmed in two tournaments at Sheffield Wednesday’s Hillsborough ground and another at Millwall’s Den before the weekend.
The eight group winners will then progress to St George’s Park where the tournament will revert from 7-a-side to a full 11-a-side event. A Southern winner and a Northern winner will make it through to the final which will be played at Leicester’s King Power stadium on June 2.
The teams will be managed by BT Sport pundits Robbie Savage and John Hartson with the winner picking up the title plus £5,000 of equipment and a free BT Sport subscription for a year for the pub they are representing.
We will keep you posted with all the latest developments here and on our Twitter feed.