VIDEO & GALLERY: Two penalties, extra time and four goals - but Wisbech Town are held by the Saints in FA Vase thriller
AFTER two controversial penalties, four goals and thirty minutes of extra time, Wisbech Town and St Ives Town could not be separated - and they will meet again on Tuesday night.
Saturday’s enthralling FA Vase second round clash, watched by 483 fans, ended 2-2 at Westwood Road.
The Saints, who top the United Counties League, took a first half lead through Karl Gibbs but a Chris Bacon penalty and a Matt Lunn strike turned the game on its head.
Ives centre-back Will Fordham fired home the second penalty of the game in the 73rd minute to set up a goalless period of extra time - and a replay at the Elgood’s Fenland Stadium on Tuesday night.
The replay means key defenders Paul Cousins and Jon Fairweather will be able to return - but Fenmen boss Steve Appleby felt his side should already be in the hat for the third round.
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“How many saves did Lea Jordan have to make?” he said. “I’m struggling to think of one really. The only chance Gibbs had he took, which is what he is about. I felt with everything else we coped without a problem.
“We looked like the only winner. It wasn’t to be but we looked the better side.
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“They are very direct and competitive and I think we play a lot more football, which hopefully on a better pitch on Tuesday night we’ll be able to play.”
The cut-up Westwood Road pitch did play its part in a tie which got off to a frantic start as both sides struggled to settle.
Deakan Napier, who gave Saints full back Jamie Alsop the run-around all afternoon, burst into the box but Dubi Ogbonna could not convert his pass.
At the other end, Stacy Cartwright - who was booked in the fifth minute for an ugly lunge - had to put his body on the line to prevent the hosts from taking the lead.
But it was Wisbech who carried the main threat and much of it was coming from the pace of Ogbonna. The Fenmen’s top-scorer was denied three times in 15 minutes by the inspired Niall Conroy, who put in an impressive display against the side he made one appearance for on loan earlier in the season.
Napier also had a golden chance, which he blazed wide, before the Saints knocked the stuffing out of Wisbech on the counter attack.
Steven Reid was bullied off the ball by Jimmy Dean in midfield and St Ives’ powerful frontman Gibbs was on hand at the back post to nod his team into the lead against the run of play.
The goal sucked all of the tempo out of the game and a shell-shocked Wisbech struggled to carve out any more chances before the interval.
But, after some “home truths” from Appleby at half time, the visitors began to find their feet again. Napier’s cross was fluffed by Conroy before the referee waved away Wisbech’s penalty claims after a massive appeal for handball.
Conroy tipped a trademark Bacon free-kick round the post but the pressure told in the 64th minute as the referee pointed to the spot.
Jordan Lambert hauled down Ogbonna and Bacon thumped the penalty past Conroy. The goal sparked wild celebrations - too wild in the eyes of the referee as Ogbonna was booked for celebrating with the Santa-hat-wearing Fenmen fans.
The goal also gave Wisbech fresh impetus and four minutes later the turnaround was complete as Matt Lunn raced clear and calmly slotted the ball home.
But the drama continued five minutes later as St Ives found a quickfire reply. The referee awarded the second penalty of the day, ruling that Reid had blocked Lee Ellison’s shot with his hands raised. Fordham hammered the spot kick into the top corner and the sides were level again.
Tension descended on Westwood Road as both teams decided whether to stick or twist. It was Wisbech who looked most likely to get a winner as Millson drew another save from Conroy and substitute Ollie Gale flashed a shot wide.
The Fenmen continued to apply the pressure as the tie went into extra time. Bacon and the supreme Spafford had headers cleared off the line but the ball would not go in for Appleby’s side.
St Ives found renewed energy in the second period of extra time but, despite a flurry of free-kicks and an impressive performance from David Cobb, they were also struggling to find a finish.
The final chance of the game fell to Ogbonna, who will no doubt wonder how he managed to play 120 minutes and not score. His 116th minute left-footed effort crept inches wide of the post and Wisbech were left with a replay.
Appleby said: “We weren’t clinical but with the side we had, with the suspension problems, I’m more than happy. I feel as though there’s plenty to take from it into Tuesday.
“I think the boys that did play did superbly. The back four were superb. Spaff (Spafford) and Stacy (Cartwright) were superb, young Lewis (Sturman) did well and Scott Johnson showed what a good player he has been for years. All over the park we competed and gave it our all.
“We got into the lads at half time. We said a few home truths about what we do when things aren’t going for us and how we respond. We sulked for 10 minutes after their goal and we got our heads down. Second half I thought we were exceptional.”
Appleby said that both penalties were “debatable” and admitted his defenders’ brave performance had given him a selection headache for Tuesday.
He said: “With Cousins and Fairweather back we’ve got even more in our locker. I’ve got a big selection headache.
“I jokingly said that I’ve somehow got to pick a team out of that and justify it. I’ll just pick the side that I think can win us the game.”
Wisbech Town: Jordan, Sturman, Johnson, Spafford, Cartwright, Reid (McGeorge, 77), Bacon, Millson, D Ogbonna, Napier, Lunn (Gale, 77).
Subs not used: T Ogbonna, Friend, Roberts.
St Ives Town: Conroy, Lambert, Alsop, Newman, Fordham, Dean, D Cobb, Ellison, Stead (Walshe, 64), Gibbs (Roberts, 129), S Cobb (McDougald, 85).