First booked their place in this year's Plate final with another hard fought and thrilling victory over Braniel II. With hopes of becoming the first team to retain the trophy, First were determined to pick up from Tuesday's narrow defeat to Premier Division side Lambeg Rangers in the Gordon Hanna Trophy, and set out a strong team despite being shorn of a few regulars due to injury and Tuesday night's exertions.
However it was the Belfast side who started the better as the First midfield struggled to get into the game. Braniel were putting the First defense under pressure and it eventually told when Braniel went 1 - 0 up when Davies finished cooly. That's how the scores stayed at the break. First went out for the second half wound up and ready to take the game back but Braniel II extended their lead when some slack marking allowed the Braniel centre back to head in unmarked at the back post.
The second goal however sparked First into life, and Braniel appeared to take their foot off the gas as First started to dominate possession. They got back into the game in spectacular style, when the referee awarded them a free kick 25 yards from goal. David Reid stepped up to fire an unstoppable shot into the top corner. First continued to dominate and create chances. The Braniel keeper had to make several superb saves, most notably from Simpson, and the post was struck as First continued to push for the equaliser. With 20 minutes to go Greg Totten was sent on and grabbed the equaliser five minutes later, cooly heading home from inside the 6 yard box.
It looked like it was only a matter of time before First would grab the winner, but their task was made harder when Des Eastwood chased back the Braniel forward after giving the ball away. In trying to win the ball back, he brought his man down just outside the box and the referee was left with no choice but to send him off. However with extra time looming, First grabbed a dramatic winner with 5 minutes to go. Henderson played the ball in for Luke Eastwood whose shot was parried by the goalkeeper into the path of the onrushing Totten who got his second of the match to sensationally send First into the final. Braniel pushed for a dramatic equaliser but the defense held strong and First were able to claim their second 3 - 2 victory over Braniel II in 5 days and give themselves the chance of defending their trophy against Warren YM
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