NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: March Town return to FA Cup in scintillating style after hard-fought victory
- Credit: Archant
March Town relished their FA Cup homecoming with a hard-fought victory over Norwich United today.
The Hares came through 2-1 over the current Thurlow Nunn Premier Division leaders in a tense extra preliminary round tie at the GER, thanks to goals from strike pairing Craig Gillies and Jack Friend in either half.
Craig Bussens levelled midway through the first period before March striker Toby Allen was dismissed for a high boot just after the break, which livened what was an even contest.
Brett Whaley's men returned to the competition following a seven-year absence, and now look forward to hosting either Wellingborough Town or Eynesbury Rovers in the next round.
A cagey opening few minutes reflected how both sides tried to eye a clear opportunity, but it was March who gained the initiative inside six minutes.
The deadly duo of Friend and Gillies combined to great effect, and as the former threaded a pinpoint pass through the visiting defence, the latter was on hand to comfortably slot past goalkeeper Luke Pearson.
Windy conditions contributed to opportunistic aerial threats and wayward passing, although both sides were willing to promote the intricacy within their entertaining styles of play.
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What should have been a simple defensive clearance turned into calamity for March, Bussens the beneficiary of an avoidable mishap to fire the visitors level.
One moment of madness from Allen acted as the turning point for this game, but perhaps not in the favour of those with a fully-fledged outfield.
The incident sparked March into gear and, three minutes later, it was the influential Friend who exquisitely chipped 'keeper Pearson after latching onto a well-timed pass from midfielder Jack Rawson.
For all of Norwich's efforts to pressurise their opponents, this ultimately strengthened March's resolve in the hopes of forming a proverbial brick wall for the rest of the match.
Hares goalkeeper Charlie Congreve was called into action on several occasions, denying set-pieces and helping block dangerous deliveries from a competent step five outfit.
It was a test of character in the battle of two in-form sides, but not to the surprise of most in attendance, it was March Town who live to fight another day.
March: Charlie Congreve; Jamie Short, Scott Callaghan, Max Mattless ©, Drew Barker, Adam Rothery, Jack Rawson (sub Gavin Cooke, 88'), Tarren Moxon (sub Casey Logan, 68'), Allen, Friend, Gillies (sub Mo Hamza, 73').
Unused subs: Charlie Pocklington, Dylan Kilford, Lewis Gibson, Flo Tsaguim.
Goals: March Town - Gillies (6'), Friend (51').
Norwich United - Bussens (25').
Red card: March Town - Allen (foul, 48').
Referee: Scott Hamilton.
Man of the Match: Charlie Congreve.