Clay Cross Town ……………… 2 (Scully 1′, Mitchell 90+2′)
Gedling MW …………………… 2 (Law 39′, Large 67′)
(AET) (HT 1-1; 2-2)
A replay awaits as Grant Mitchell’s strike in the dying seconds salvages a draw for Clay Cross Town against Gedling Miners Welfare at the Mill Lane Ground in the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Vase.
Both sides came into the tie unbeaten in four and the build-up boded well for an enthralling encounter. The hosts currently sit top of the Central Midland League North division and made the perfect start to the game when they took the lead after only 34 seconds.
Breaking down the right after Adam Kimberley had capitalised on some indecisiveness by Matt Newton, his pass inside was superbly controlled by Josh Scully before the skipper fired across Keaton Sharpe into the far corner to give his side an early lead.
The visitors responded well to the early set back and Dean Gent’s angled cross for Courtney Hastings was inch perfect with 7 minutes played but the striker couldn’t divert his header on target.
Moments later and Jimmy Spiers found himself on the end of a slyly reversed pass from Hastings but was thwarted by Andrew Topham who did well to save with his feet.
After overcoming Melton Town after extra time in the previous round, Miners came into this one in excellent form and started to slowly stamp their authority on the game.
With 21 minutes played, Charlie Roberts did well to angle a header into the path of Aaron Large who had shrugged off a challenge from Jake Johnson, though his effort lacked any real power and was pickings for Topham.
5 minutes later and Roberts’ thunderous tackle with Tom Suter inadvertently saw the ball with Hastings, but after skipping around the tackles of both Johnson and Tom Torrington, his looping effort clipped the top of the crossbar as Gedling chased a deserved equaliser.
Soaking up the pressure defensively, Clay Cross always posed a threat going forward and looked to take advantage of towering striker Josh Parfitt to utilise his strengths.
Shortly after the half hour, the impressive Scully found the the 6’7″ striker with a characteristically arrowed pass across field but the striker’s header was well held by Sharpe.
The home side whittled as the half progressed and failed to really test Sharpe and his defensive three who were mainly untroubled and excellent throughout, and their efforts at one end were rewarded 6 minutes before the break when Gedling levelled the scores.
A high, raking pass from Large was won convincingly in the air by Roberts ahead of Suter and with the ball landing kindly for Tony Law in behind a static home defence, some fine composure allowed the striker to slot neatly past Topham and give the away side a deserved equaliser.
Minutes later and Law had the ball in the net once again, though despite the last touch coming off Johnson before nestling into the far corner, assistant referee John Stevens had adjudged Law’s involvement too much and referee Aaron Hallam cut the celebrations short.
As is a common theme so far this season, Gedling began the second half more lively and set about adding to their tally and only 7 minutes after the restart should have gone in front.
Hastings’ tackle with Suter was convincing and Law once again benefited from a fortunate outcome. However, as he bared down on goal with only Topham to beat, dragged his effort wide of the post in what was a glorious chance for the visitors to take the lead.
The dominance continued as the hosts retreated deeper into their own half with Parfitt cutting a lonely figure as supply was scarce.
On the hour, and as Hastings’ claim of an off-the-ball stamp was waved away by Hallam, Law, McCaughey and Large all combined on the edge of the area before Roberts’ strike on the slide cleared the crossbar from an acute angle.
Clay Cross found it difficult to emulate their start to the game and were only limited to half chances that were never going to worry Sharpe who faced very little action in the second half.
With 63 minutes played, the impressive Scully tried his luck from range but was always floating wide of Sharpe’s near post as the ‘keeper watched it wide.
A minute later, however, and Welfare’s number one could only watch in awe as Scully’s hit from well inside his own half clipped the top of the crossbar as the former University of Northwestern Ohio midfielder deservedly took the plaudits from all in attendance for such an audacious attempt.
The chance came and went for the home side who found it difficult to break down a resilient visiting defence lead by Felix Hogg and Dean Gent and their task was made even harder on 67 minutes when, at the other end, Welfare took the lead with an excellent collective effort.
Linking up well down the left, McCaughey, Law and substitute TK Mushambi, son of former Miner and Zimbabwe international Kelvin, all combined superbly to feed into the path of Large who, after deceiving Topham with his eyes, calmly slotted past the ‘keeper to put his side in front.
As the game ticked toward it’s close, the hosts had little answer to Gedling’s stronghold on the game and did very little to level the scorelines.
Miners continued to push forward with Hastings spearheading a committed attack, but after he found himself behind a tiring Johnson and Torrington with 8 minutes remaining, his shot was easily saved by Topham.
2 minutes later and Spiers had a chance to confirm Gedling’s name in the hat for Monday’s draw but once again Topham kept his side in with a chance as he saved well down to his left.
Now throwing everything forward hoping to preserve their FA Vase status and extend their unbeaten start to the season, the home side went long with Parfitt the obvious target and in the dying seconds found the leveller.
After good hold-up play by the striker down the right, his deep cross was nodded down by Jack Weaver and as the ball came loose, the onrushing Grant Mitchell fired through a crowd of players into the bottom corner to send the game into extra time.
Tiredness was evident as extra time commenced and both teams had given their all throughout an exhilarating tie, but the home side found a second wind only 3 minutes in when Alex Haughton was dismissed following his second caution after a foul on half-time substitute Billy Brooks.
Buoyed by their late equaliser and man advantage, Clay Cross looked the more likely to snatch a late winner but still found a stubborn Gedling defence in fine form. However, they had a glorious chance late on that nearly ensured their progress.
With 2 minutes remaining in extra time, Torrington’s fine pass to the right was inch perfect for Brooks who had controlled well, but Sharpe excellently smothered the first attempt. From the rebound, the young stalwart kept his side in the competition with a wonderful one-handed save before the danger was cleared and referee Hallam drew the game to a close.
A frustrating afternoon for Gedling who did more than enough to win the game and secure their passage into the First Round proper of the FA Vase, but were more than matched by a spirited Clay Cross side and the teams go at it again on Tuesday night (17 September) at Plains Road in the replay, kick off 19:45.
Gedling Miners Welfare Man of the Match – Felix Hogg
Match Attendance – 120
Referee – Aaron Hallam
Assistant Referees – Michael Douglas and John Stevens
Clay Cross Town – Andrew Topham, Kieran Ordidge, Tom Suter, Jake Johnson (Jack Weaver 80′), Tom Torrington, Ryan Ordidge, Joe Newton (Billy Brooks 45′), Josh Scully (c), Josh Parfitt, Adam Kimberley, Grant Mitchell
Unused Substitutes – Alex Hewitt, Callum Spencer, Joel Holland, Ross Murcott
Gedling Miners Welfare – Keaton Sharpe, Matt Newton (TK Mushambi 60′), Ross McCaughey (c), Dean Gent, Felix Hogg, Aaron Large, Charlie Roberts (Cameron Thurgood 105′), Josh Thornton, Courtney Hastings (Stephen Cox 111′), Jimmy Spiers, Tony Law (Alex Haughton 65′)
Unused Substitutes – Solomon Miller
Cautions – Spiers (foul 75′), Haughton (foul 88′)
Dismissals – Haughton (second bookable offence 93′)