10th August 2019

Emirates F A Cup Extra Qualifying Round

Wantage Town (1) Brackley Town Saints (1)

Saints: Crowther, Middleton, Gabbidon, March, Goddard, Middleton (D), Ball, Godfrey (Dowse 85), Knight, Hammond, Stott (Sherratt 80)

A strong, well organised performance by Saints who will be kicking themselves for conceding a late equaliser that means the two sides will replay the tie on Wednesday evening at St James Park.

The tie kicked off with an extremely strong wind blowing straight into the Saints faces. The early stages were tentative as both teams came to terms with the wind and a seemingly endless number of free kicks for untidy challenges which disrupted the flow of the game.

Saints had the first shot in anger when Lewis Middleton combined well with George Ball who set Ryan Knight free but his left foot shot was easily dealt with by Charlie McCready in the Fred’s goal.

On the half hour the Middleton brothers broke down the right channel with Lewis pulling the ball back across goal into the path of Alex Stott whose first time effort rose over the bar. Minutes later Knight found a great position on the left wing and delivered a fine cross, and although the wind held the ball up Stott rose well and headed the ball goalward only for McCready to make a fine save.

The last action of the first half saw George Ball bamboozle the left back and deliver a good cross to the far post where James Hammond was distracted by a late deflection and could not make his header tell.

The second half was only a minute old when Saints opened the scoring. Lewis Middleton started the move defending really well on the edge his own penalty area, nicking the ball and laying the ball to Hammond who galloped out of defence. His accurate pass found Knight who played an excellent one two with Ball. Knight cut in from the right wing and measured a fine pass into the path of Ball who arriving at pace controlled his shot excellently into the top of the net.

Wantage were stung into life and for the next 20 minutes they raised their game a level, but were not able to breach a well organised Saints defence, and without troubling Matt Crowther in the Saints goal. Saints were then to have a purple patch with 20 minutes remaining and should have doubled their lead from one of 3 very presentable chances. Firstly Hammond played a cute ball through to Knight whose dink over McCready rolled agonisingly wide of the goal. Saints again breached the square defensive line a few moments later with Stott breaking free onto a defence splitting pass from Jordan Godfrey. Stott chose to lob McCready from 40 yards but the attempt was caught by the wind and drifted over the bar. In the next passage of play Godfrey found another excellent pass into the feet of Ball who twisted and turned but his shot was pulled inches wide of the post.

In the last 10 minutes both sides made a couple of substitutions. The Freds pushed and probed and won 2 or 3 free kicks in dangerous areas. One resulted in a header from Brad Cox, but this drifted wide. In the final minute and somewhat controversially the referee gave a free kick for handball against Sam Sherratt. Wantage took full advantage with a neat free kick routine seeing Nick Thorne burst through on the left side of the box and roll the ball under Crowther into the bottom corner. That was that. Given the conditions this was an entertaining game. Saints will rue the missed chances and the late equaliser but must be happy with the overall performance against a team from the next level up, and if they can repeat the performance on Wednesday, who knows.