Whaley hails players’ bravery as March Town United take Ely City to extra-time

Ridgeons League Challenge Cup Preliminary Round: March Town United 2 Ely City 4 (AET)

MANAGER Brett Whaley hailed the bravery of his March Town United players after they took Ridgeons Premier Division Ely City to extra-time in the league cup last night.

Whaley’s Hares – who play one level below Ely in the Ridgeons First Division – slipped to a 4-2 defeat despite pushing the Robins all the way in the Ridgeons League Challenge Cup Preliminary Round.

March had come from behind twice during normal time but failed to respond after Ely’s Austen Diaper and Taz Chisango struck in the first half of extra-time to secure the Robins’ win.

Whaley said: “We showed lots of character to get back into the game twice against a very physical side.

“The lads worked so hard for each other and showed great resilience. I’m really proud of their performance. We matched them for 90 minutes but got caught cold for five minutes in extra-time and gave away two more goals.

“Everything they hit just seemed to go in but we showed a lot of heart because we never gave up even though we tired. Many sides would have folded but we didn’t.”

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The visitors took the lead when centre-back Chris Lenton headed Lee Pacey’s long clearance into his own net.

Captain Luke Pepper equalised with a curling free-kick from outside the box but his brilliance was matched by Ely’s Josh Bridgeman who lashed the ball home from 25 yards to give his side a 2-1 lead at the break.

Pepper bagged his second, and his side’s equaliser, when he looped a header past Pacey with 15 minutes left to send the tie into extra time.

The Robins’ two quick goals killed the game off and Sam Robinson missed a penalty to make it 5-2 deep into the second half of added time.

Ely boss Alan Alsop - whose side will take on Ridgeons Premier Division rivals Dereham Town in the next round - said: “We should have wrapped it up before injury time to be honest but they scored right at the death and forced it into extra time.

“I think our superior fitness and quality told in the end, they fell away a little bit towards the end and we could have scored a few more.”

Adam Rothery and Andy Wayte – who both joined Pepper on the scoresheet during Saturday’s 3-1 Ridgeons First Division win at Brightlingsea Regent – will miss March’s league clash at second-placed Whitton United this weekend.

Whaley said: “We gave our best performance of the season at Brightlingsea then took Ely all the way – it’s been my most pleasing week of the season so far.

“This week has showed me what we’re capable of and we’re so much further forward than I thought we would be already. We’ll have to take the Ely result on the chin and move on.

“We’ve had such a tough start and Whitton will be another difficult game. It’ll be a test to see how far we’ve come.”