Saturday 12th October
Brackley Town Saints (2) West Bridgford (3)
Saints : Crowther, Middleton, Gabbidon (March), Brock, Goddard, Hartley, Stott, Hammond, Knight, Ball, Kille (Godfrey)
SUBS NOT USED: Jacucha, Dowse
This was a fantastic match to watch for the neutral. From the very first minute both teams were at it and the suspense of a completely pulsating game continued right until the last minute of extra time. It was end to end stuff with both sides playing good football creating good chances and with both keepers making excellent saves but also important mistakes.
Saints will be bitterly disappointed that they did not win this game to further their FA Vase journey as they probably created more clear-cut goalscoring chances during the game, but only just. The first of these came as early as the first minute when a fantastic phase of passing lead to Ryan Knight being set free into the left hand side of the box. He waited for goalkeeper James Fogg to commit himself, but he didn't and managed to stop Knight’s shot with his legs.
This was merely a short-term reprieve for Bridgeford as Saints took the lead two minutes later following another great move which saw George Ball cleverly set Ryan Knight free again and this time Knight had no trouble in shooting past Fogg for his 7th goal of the season.
Saints were full of confidence and were passing well and finding space. Defensively Sam Hartley, Ollie Goddard and Harry Brock all looked very comfortable in central defence leaving wing backs. Dan Middleton and Lewis Gabbidon to link well offensively. Even so Bridgford showed that they were also in confident mood when a sharp shot on goal required a good save from Matt Crowther.
Further Saints chances came for Alex Stott and George Ball both of who shot just wide of the post. At 25 minutes Saints were good value for their lead but gradually Bridgford worked themselves back into the game and Came very close to equalising when the lively Tim Hopkinson turned sweetly on the edge of the area and cleverly chipped Crowther only to see his shot land on the top of the bar.
Hopkinson again caused trouble when he cleverly played in Ryan Whitehurst who forced another good save from Crowther this time with his legs.
At half-time it felt as though Saints may look back and wish that they had taken advantage of their early superiority and nicked another goal.
Saints started the second half brightly and George Ball was immediately set free into the Bridgeford box and went down under a heavy challenge which the referee deemed to be simulation for which Ball received the yellow card. No arguments.
The 52nd minute was the start of a 10 minute period during which the Saints lost their way . Bridgeford put together a slick passing move down their right flank which led to Jordan Wheatley cutting inside on his left foot and smashing a rasping drive past Crowther and into the top corner. Top quality goal.
Saints were shaken and came under further pressure for the next three or four minutes however it was a seemingly innocuous cross that caught Crowther unawares and he could only pat the ball away which fell to Ryan Whitehurst who showed great composure to cut inside beating Dan Middleton and Crowther before lifting the ball high into the net.
Bridgford continued to set the pace and Crowther needed to be very quick off his line to thwart Hopkinson.
Saints slowly steadied the ship and began to knock the ball around with more purpose and on 78 minutes created what appeared to be the big chance to level things up. It followed some really sweet passing football ending with Ryan Knight releasing James Hammond who burst through to the edge of the box but unfortunately he lifted his shot too high and over the bar. Saints kept plugging away but Bridgeford were defending deeply and stoutly and understandably taking every opportunity to slow the game down. But Saints pushed again and on 87 minutes Knight again broke through the left flank and shot just across the face of the goal and minutes later George Ball hit the bar following a delicate chip. It seemed as though Saints efforts were not to be rewarded.
As the game moved into added time Saints were awarded a free kick on the halfway line. Crowther galloped from his goal to take the kick which was long and direct to the edge of the Bridgford 6 yard box where James Fogg decided to come to punch the ball. Fogg ended up in no mans land and Goddard gleefully headed the ball into the empty net. Cue pandemonium
The 90 minutes finished with tempers flaring and some unsavoury argy bargy which soon settled down and the game moved into extra time.
The first period of extra time was tight but Saints seemed to be gaining the advantage On 95 minutes Substitute Jordan Godfrey made a defence splitting pass to James Hammond who was one-on-one with Fogg who once again used to feet to great effect.
Five minutes later there was clear evidence that it was not going to be Saints day. Some superb football ended with 4 rapid goal attempts from Knight x 2 ,Stott and Godfrey all of which were cleared off the line or blocked by the keeper and defenders. Unbelievable stuff.
But Bridgford counter punched with Wheatley frustrated by a good Crowther save and by the crossbar when his 25 yard shot had looked in all the way.
I don’t think anybody could believe that we reached half-time of extra time without further goals and talk was turning to the dreaded penalty kicks.
However we need not have worried as with 10 minutes of the second period of extra time remaining Bridgeford scored what turned out to be the winner. Again it was well created with excellent work from Tom Batterham whose cross eventually squirmed free to Jack Oldham just outside the 6 yard box and he fired the ball over Crowther and into the top right corner of the net.
Saints pushed and pushed for the final 10 minutes but just could not find a way to break a very determined Bridgford defence.
This was an absolutely fantastic advertisement for the game at this level. The good crowd that came along on ‘non-league football day’ were thoroughly entertained. Well played West Bridgeford. Your never say die attitude stood you in great stead. Good luck in the next round.