FA Trophy Preliminary Round
Saturday 18th October 2014
Report by: Darren Pasley
Pics: Stuart Tree
Casuals were denied a route through to the next round of the FA Trophy as a header 3 minutes into stoppage time earned spirited Leighton Town a late draw at Bell Close.
Full backs Nial Wright and Mason Welch-Turner returned in two of the three changes to the side that where thrashed by Whyteleafe 8 days prior. There was also a welcome start for Jamie Byatt his first since the injury at Herne Bay 3 weeks ago.
It was surprisingly mild October day but from the off it seemed Casuals would need to adapt their game to suit the difficult pitch. Juevan Spencer in the opening stages twice found himself with space down the right but both times his poor deliveries were cleared with ease.
Danny Bracken was the first to be called into action after 5 minutes when a long diagonal ball found Claude Senla on the edge of the box. The striker’s first time effort on the half volley saw Bracken at full stretch to keep the shot out.
It was the home side setting the early tempo and this time Christian Lester was allowed time and space inside the area to bring the ball down but Casuals once again were thankful to Bracken who got down low to his right to hold onto the drive.
The visitors seemingly out of sorts were struggling to find any fluency or rhythm and only desperate defending from Dudley prevented another goal scoring chance as the hosts broke with pace. Bracken was by far the busier of the keepers and on the half hour mark he again did well to hold onto another low effort, this time defender Chris Crook with the snapshot from the edge of the box.
Senla was finding more and more space but to the visitor’s relief lacking the finishing touch. On 36 minutes this time after peeling off at the back post following a deep cross his wayward effort flew harmlessly over. Moments later ex Ampthill Town star Phil Draycott sent in the cross of the match but Senla arriving between Dudley and Hicks got his bearings wrong and the header endangered the corner flag more than the back of the net.
Casuals showed signs of improvement as the half drew to a close and as the interval beckoned Joe Hicks took matters into his own hands turning in the box and drew the save from Danny Green in the goal after powering through two defenders.
None of the 78 crowd after witnessing the first half spectacle could have predicted the drama to follow in the second 45.
The period started much as the first half before with Senla again in a good position but this time after arriving from Watsons cross he mistimed his shot and the ball rolled off the other leg before comically falling over. Up to this point it clearly wasn’t his afternoon.
Casuals first foray into the opposition half saw Carl Wilson-Denis hold off his marker and play in Dudley. The defenders low effort deflected off a defender and Green did well to keep the ball out despite going the wrong way. Almost immediately the home side broke and Michael Lyons cross found Danny Watson inside the 6-yard box. Remarkably though the striker who hit 44 goals last season for Ampthill Town in the Spartan South Midlands League spooned his effort over.
The home side continued to ask questions with the impressive Lester peppering the box with dangerous crosses.
Out of nothing Casuals took the lead with their first meaningful attack of the match in the 58th minute. A neat interchange of passing involving Bettache who up until that point had struggled on the heavy pitch saw Spencer allowed to perform his trickery down the right. After fooling his marker he dinked in the perfect cross for Byatt to nod home from 6 yards out(pictured below). This was to spark a remarkable period of 4 goals in 8 minutes.
The home sides response was immediate. After winning a corner Christian Lester rose above the Casuals defence to head home off the post to level the match. The drama continued two minutes later as Lester this time turned provider. His cross from the left met the head of Senla and the ex Tottenham youngster who has also made first team appearances for Watford powered home his effort back across Bracken. It was a magnificent goal and out of keeping with his earlier attempts.
With the game seemingly turned around Casuals went hunting and drew level themselves on 66 minutes. A corner to the near post was scrambled away and after Wilson-Denis fed the ball back to Bettache the young playmaker weaved past his marker and sent in a low cross, which was palmed away by Green. Jamie Byatt lurking turned and fired home the rebound despite the efforts of the defender on the line.
At 2-2 the tie was there for the taken as both sides looked to attack at every opportunity. Watson was the next to be denied by Bracken as his low shot was beaten away. At the other end substitute Reece Placid arrived on time to meet Dave Hodges cut back but his side footed effort struck the base of the post with Byatt this time firing the loose ball at Green who clung on.
It was only a matter of time before one side took the lead and that honour fell to the visitors. On 78 minutes Lee Hall showed good composure to win the ball and then look up, releasing a lovely left footed lofted pass that split Crook and Goodman at the heard of the home defence. The grateful Byatt raced onto the ball and with Green approaching poked the ball through the keeper’s legs to record his hat trick.
As predicted the home side through everything forward but when Bracken tipped Draycott’s last minute free kick onto the bar it seemed Casuals had done enough to claim the victory and £2500 prize money, however the hosts had other ideas.
A free kick into the box with everyone up including keeper Green was headed away but with the ball slung back in left back Gary Ridgeway found himself onside and his header from 15 yards deceived Bracken and crept inside the right hand post. The goal sparked joyous scenes from the home bench and as a result the two sides meet again on Tuesday evening.
Manager Matt Howard commented after the match:
“It was a proper cup game to keep the crowd entertained, that’s for sure! I was pleased with the boys first half and as we normally are in the second half, we’ve done well.
“However, the three goals we’ve conceded were poor and at the minute, we’re having to score four or five goals to win a game of football and that’s not right.
“We’ve conceded three headed goals and we’ve got to defend better than that. The first goal was direct from a corner; second goal was a secondary move from a corner and the third goal from a free kick. The lads are adamant the third was offside but I couldn’t see from where I was.
“We’re confident going into Tuesday’s match… our pitch, our home and I asked them are you confident going into the tie? It was a resounding yes. It’ll be a completely different game.
“We’ve got a couple walking wounded at the moment which is a little bit of a worry but we’ll see where we are come Tuesday. Jamie’s hattrick was fantastic. We left him out against Whyteleafe, purely through our concern with his hamstring injury but what a way to come back and say ‘don’t leave me out again!’”
Stuart Trees collection of pics can be viewed by clicking here