FA Trophy 3rd Round Qualifying Replay
Wednesday 2nd December 2015
King George's Arena
Match report: Darren Pasley.
Images: Stuart Tree (full set of photos here)
Andy Nunn (full set here)
Corinthian-Casuals' amazing FA Trophy journey continues as in the most dramatic fashion they overcame Ryman Premier Grays Athletic.
It took a Juevan Spencer header 4 minutes into stoppage time to seal a place in the first round proper for the first time in their history and it was a victory so richly deserved.
With Warren Morgan suspended and Sekou Kaba injured, Josh Uzun and Stef Joseph came into the side which had fought out a goalless draw the previous Sunday.
The visitors nearly made the perfect start as inside the first 10 seconds Bradley Fortnam-Tomlinson got down the right and sent in a low cross which Danny Dudley nearly tapped into his own net. Fortunately for the defender he recovered to hook clear and the danger was averted.
In the 7th minute Kevant Serbony, so powerful in the middle of the park, allowed Spencer to roam down the right but his low cross was gathered low down by keeper Lamar Johnson who just like Sunday showed assured handling.
The games first half chance fell to Grays' player-manager Mark Bentley but the former Wealdstone and Aldershot Town hero screwed his effort horribly wide with 16 minutes gone.
Casuals were finding space in the middle and a particular well worked one-two between Cherno Mendy and Emmanuel Akokhia resulted in the former being brought down on the edge of the box. Josh Uzun on this occasion hitting the wall with the subsequent kick.
Harry Agmobar was denied by an amazing diving tackle from Terry Murray which ensured his effort from the edge of the box diverted just wide and the young defender again was on hand shortly afterwards to block Jay Leaders header from a corner.
The home side continued to look threatening on the counter with their pace and Cherno Mendy spurned the halfs best chance on 35.. Spencer again working his magic but after finding his team-mate the ball spooned horribly over although it was suggested the ball had bobbled up.
Both sides to their credit pushed for the opener as the half drew to a close. Danny Dudley this time the saviour, back to cover and knock behind Roman Michael-Percil’s drive for goal with Danny Bracken committed. From the resulting corning Bracken gathered and a quick release saw Akokhia beat Luke Ifill on the right and into the box his low centre just wrong footed the oncoming Joseph.
With a minute remaining of the half Ben Kings corner just evaded everyone including the flying Murray who was inches from converting at the back post.
Grays started the the second half well and looked a tad sharper. Perhaps accepting they would have to match their opponents desire to win what was becoming an increasingly difficult tie.
A well worked move saw the ball worked out to Agombar but his low side footed effort was easily gathered by Bracken.
Casuals ever reliable skipper had a rare lapse in concentration in the 61st minute when punching weakly from a corner but with the ball sent back goal-wards it hit Uzun before being hooked to safety.
Casuals were dropping deeper to try and stem what was becoming the Ryman Premier sides best period over the 2 games. Despite the pressure only a 65th minute free kick from James Stevens which bobbled and smacked the base of the post was the only real scare.
After a tricky 20 minutes Casuals once again got back on the front foot and another Ben King corner nearly led to the opener; this time Dudley hooking at Johnson when a yard either side would have been a different story.
With 15 minutes remaining, Mendy broke through the middle and found substitute Matt Reece and with the ball played into the path of Spencer, only a timely intervention prevented the games clearest opportunity yet,
Substitute Montel Agyemang found the highly rated Dumebi Dumaka but Bracken was down well again as the game moved into injury time.
With both sets of players and management contemplating the forthcoming extra period, Dave Hodges from left full back took matters into his own hands. On a run from the half way line, he set down the left and on beating Ifill, crossed to the back post where Spencer arrived bang on cue to head into the top corner.
The celebrations on the pitch and three sides of the ground showed what just it meant to the club and it was too little for the visitors, who despite a real sense of urgency for the remaining three additional minutes failed to make a late breakthrough.
An elated James Bracken spoke after the match to Stuart Tree.
“I think over the course of the two games, we deserved the win. We’ve had the more clear-cut chances, although we haven’t taken them.
“But when you score in the 94th minute, it doesn’t matter how many you miss, if you score that late on, that’s the best way to win the game.
“We’d rather not leave it that late, but when we have scored earlier in games, it’s not necessarily been a good thing for us. I think it’s important that you stay in the tie as long as possible when you play a team from the division above. You look to nick it when your opportunity comes.
“You get yourself up for cup games. I’m not naïve enough to think we can get ourselves up to this level every single week. Yes – we aim for it and I’ll ask the lads ‘can we get near it every week?’ Because if we can get near what we done tonight, Sunday and in the last round against Leiston, we’d be top of the Ryman League South, we wouldn’t have lost a game and we’d be hot favourites.
“We’ve got a young side who sometimes make mistakes but in these cup games, we haven’t made those errors and we’ve played well.
“We’ll make sure we do our homework on Hungerford and I’ll come up with a plan. I’ll pick a team that I deem can win a game.
“The support tonight from behind the goal was fantastic. I mentioned them in the changing room after the game. We never had a lull in our performance, in terms of our energy and neither did they. They sung for the whole 90 minutes.
“When I took over here in the summer, I said to the chairman, ‘I want to turn those fifteen who get behind the goal into fifty’. I felt that if we got a team out there that could do them justice, then it would grow.
“They didn’t turn up as a neutral supporter today… they’re people who have stood there and sung their hearts out. They’re proper fans.
“I got in amongst the supporters after the final whistle; one to show my appreciation for them but more so to show their appreciation to the players… to say that I’d have paid £8 tonight and I’d have stood behind the goal and been proud of the performance that we put in.”