Blues take first step on the road to Wembley
FA Challenge Cup Extra Preliminary Round
Saturday 6th August 2016
Haverhill Rovers 1(0) Hertford Town 2(0)
(Wade 66’, Hatherly (pen) 90’)
Blues manager Gavin Kelsey’s enviable FA Challenge Cup record was further enforced with this hard-fought victory at Eastern Counties Premier League club, Haverhill Rovers. Tyler Hatherly’s successful penalty conversion in the last minute of normal time clinched a 2-1 win and earned the Blues a home tie in the Preliminary Round against league rivals, Hadley.
Games against teams from the Eastern Counties League are never easy and this one was no exception. The Blues enjoyed much the better of the possession but found the home defence a ‘tough nut to crack’. Very often the necessary final pass was elusive and, while the result was in the balance, the hosts always posed a threat.
The first half, although goalless, was not without its fair share of goalmouth action. Good goalkeeping and committed defending defied a number of good efforts from the Blues; Tyler Hatherly had a cross-cum-shot tipped over the bar in the sixth minute and then Mark Summers and Matt Thomson had shots blocked in quick succession in the twelfth.
The Blues were dominant but with almost half an hour gone haverhill, in their first serious attack, brought Reece Buck into the action for the first time with a save from a header at the far post following a free kick from deep out on the left.
Straight back on the offensive, though, the Blues once again came close to taking the lead when central defender, Glenn Draper, struck the top of the bar with a fierce drive from outside the box following the ball being half-cleared from a corner. Further efforts from Tommy Wade, Adam Murad and Jay Lovell all threatened a goal but no goal was forthcoming before the break.
The second half saw the Blues make an impressive start with Tyler Hatherly bursting through the Haverhill defence before pulling the ball back across the box where it reached Adam Murad at the far post. Adam could have taken a shot but he instead returned the ball into the six-yard area where it was scrambled away.
Ten minutes later, Tommy Wade was the next to go close when he brought out a fine save from the home custodian with a well-struck shot from close range. Soon after, Adam Murad almost set up a goal when he swept Mark Summers’ cross across the face of the goal and then, moments later, Mark Summers grazed a post from fifteen yards following some very clever play from Phil Lowen.
A goal for the Blues seemed inevitable and it duly arrived in the 66th minute. Ed Taylor and Tyler Hatherly combined up the left flank to feed the ball into Phil Lowen who, once again, tricked his way into the penalty area and pulled the ball back for Tommy Wade to slam into the back of the net.
At this stage the Blues were completely in charge of the game and looked assured of victory. As so often happens to teams in this situation, however, the Blues lost concentration and conceded an equaliser inside only two minutes. The ball was given away in midfield and the hosts produced their best football of the match to pass their way though the Blues defence to score a well-taken goal.
The Blues responded positively, though, and in the 72nd minute Tommy Wade went round three players only to suffer the disappointment of seeing his goalbound shot cleared off the line by a recovering defender. Almost immediately, the same player cleared off the line again when his keeper had fumbled a long throw-in from Jay Lovell.
If another goal was going to come, most of those present would have expected to come from the Blues but disaster almost struck when a defensive lapse gifted a chance to the hosts which they somehow contrived to waste!
The Blues were in need of a lift and they got it from the introduction of substitutes Lee Roberts, Ben Andreos and Ricky Light. They all made an immediate impact and, with time running out, Ricky picked out Ben with a fine cross-field pass and he, in turn, drove a fierce shot against the bar and out to Lee Roberts whose blocked shot fell to Ricky Light and it was his shot that found a Haverhill hand blocking its path to goal. A penalty was duly awarded and Tyler Hatherly stepped up to send the keeper the wrong way and coolly slot home what turned out to be the winning goal.
The Blues were worthy winners but they had been forced to work hard to earn their progress to the next round.
Team: Reece Buck, Ollie Sharman, Ed Taylor, Matt Thomson, Glenn Draper, Jay Lovell, Adam Murad (Lee Roberts 76’), Phil Lowen, Mark Summers (Ben Andreos 77’), Tommy Wade (Ricky Light 84’) and Tyler Hatherly.
Subs not used: Jonah Evans, Jack Friend, Dan Ferrigno and Jayden Purdue.
Match Report by Ray Greenall
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Photos © 2016 Natalina Verta
Video © 2016 Nathan Hobley