Guernsey FC 1, Spennymoor Town 3 THIS FA Vase run has brought about memorable comebacks galore, but even by Guernsey FC’s standards, they will have to reach Wembley the hard way.
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Guernsey FC 1, Spennymoor Town 3
THIS FA Vase run has brought about memorable comebacks galore, but even by Guernsey FC’s standards, they will have to reach Wembley the hard way.
For after 90 minutes against a ruthlessly efficient side on a barely-playable Footes Lane pitch, the Green Lions face a Spennymoor-sized mountain to overcome in five days’ time.
On paper, 3-1 is reversible and May’s showpiece match still just about reachable, but they are up against a side that look every inch the winners of the competition they have now been chasing for so many years.
Make no mistake, GFC were well in this contest for long periods and showed they do truly belong at step five’s top table, but a spell early in the second half after Dom Heaume’s equaliser just before the break aside, they were second-best.
Steven Richardson came off the bench to inflict a double blow before being forced to depart again prematurely, but it was the effort of his replacement, Andrew Stephenson, just seconds after entering the fray that could well prove to be the fatal blow.
They were three clinical finishes and that, allied with a streetwise aura about them, meant it was too much for this exceptional Lions side and their 4,290 fans to overcome, with nobody able to question the result.
And it could have got even worse in the late stages, when Spennymoor had the chance to try and kill the tie off totally after the sending-off of home skipper Sam Cochrane, whose moment of madness surrendered the slight chance of a way back into the final 10 minutes of the contest.
On a pitch that was not conducive for flowing football for either side, Spennymoor adapted quickly and better, while many of GFC’s hopeful balls forward were dealt with by exceptional centre-back Leon Ryan, arguably the man-of-the match.
Richardson also shone for the purple-clad visitors, while Kieran Mahon was comfortably the home side’s best player on the day, as his usual approach of hustling and harrying mistakes gave GFC some leverage in the middle of the park.
But while chances were few and far between in a proper cup semi-final that was attritional rather than attractive, Spennymoor had nearly all of them and could easily have been two to the good early on.
Mark Davison has struck goals aplenty for the ‘Moors’ already this season and really should have got another after 16 minutes, finding a way through the GFC defence despite stumbling after a long kick forward by keeper Robert Dean bounced past Jamie Dodd and saw Cochrane outmuscled.
Alex Le Prevost also lost his footing, but after that only real mistake in a fine individual showing, Davison probably had more time than he realised to beat GFC keeper Chris Tardif and poked his one-on-one effort surprisingly wide.
At the other end, the front three of Ross Allen, Dave Rihoy and Glyn Dyer were getting precious little ammunition and even when they did, a reluctance to send green bodies forward prevented any meaningful openings.
Davison had another glorious chance on 20 minutes to make amends for his earlier miss, but this time could only fire wide of the near post from close range after the lively Wayne Phillips had skidded a low ball across the area.
Scott Bradford was given the nod in centre-midfield again by home coach Tony Vance and he stung the palms of Robert Dean, but that was as good as it got in the opening exchanges from a Lions perspective.
Their cause looked to have been aided just after the half-hour when Phillips was forced to withdraw injured, but it quickly became apparent just how good Richardson was.
He caused no end of problems all afternoon and made a near-immediate impact, giving Spennymoor the crucial first goal with 35 minutes gone on excellent referee Rob Whitton’s watch.
Joe Walton’s cross in from the right was headed across well by Davison and when the ball dropped at the back post, Richardson was there to emphatically fire across Tardif and into the bottom corner.
The goal was an early blow to Guernsey hopes in a semi-final with no away goals rule, but although Spennymoor would later take real control, it sparked GFC’s best spell of the afternoon.
They began to go forward with a bit more purpose and were rewarded on 43 minutes as Heaume struck at a crucial time to level matters with GFC’s first and only real chance of the afternoon.