FC beaten but unbowed as Vase adventure ends

Biggleswade FC scorer Tom Cookman. Picture: Guy Wills
Biggleswade FC scorer Tom Cookman. Picture: Guy Wills

Biggleswade FC’s Wembley dream is over after a goal either side of half-time saw them go down 2-1 to a vastly-experienced and dogged Canterbury City side on Sunday in the FA Vase Quarter-Final.

Joint-manager Dave Northfield pulled no punches in his assessment after the final whistle by saying “No excuses we had our chance, but two self-inflicted goals killed us”. 

However, he couldn’t hide how proud he was of his players who he said “have given us everything” and he paid tribute to the sea of Green that made their way to Kent in big numbers to make themselves heard in support of his team. 

FC started at Faversham with the same XI that took on Windsor in the last round and the early signs were promising with the visitors settling the quicker.

The partisan visiting support was sent into delirium when FC took a deserved seventh minute lead. The ball was played out to Adam Hunt on the right hand side.  He set the ball back for Lawrie Marsh, who sucked in two defenders before clipping a lovely pass between the two to release Hunt once more.  His first-time low cross was pinpoint and Tom Cookman ended a barren run of nine games without a goal by bundling home from close range.

Despite the early setback, City responded well and a decent cross from the right hand side was well-taken by Ross Tompkins in the FC goal to keep them at bay.

The best chance for FC to double their first half advantage arguably came on 36 minutes. Alex Marsh darted in from the flank and although his through ball to Northfield was blocked, Ryan Inskip seized on the loose ball and tried to find the far corner with a sweeping drive, but his effort had just too much on it. 

City’s Chris Saunders hauled the hosts level out of nothing on 42 minutes. A hopeful long ball forward was headed clear by Nick Henebery, but Saunders was onto the loose ball some 30 yards from goal and before an FC player could get close to him, he took on a speculative volley which looped wickedly over Tompkins and just under the crossbar.

The turnaround was complete seconds in to the second half and Saunders was once again involved. He played a delightful reverse pass into the path of Dean Grant and he used his power to hold off the attentions of an FC defender and clinically dispatch a low left-footed finished past Tompkins inside his near post.

The visitors hit back well with quickfire chances soon after. First a strong run from deep by Lawrie Marsh gave him a sighter of goal and he forced a smart diving stop from Delo and then Lee Northfield volleyed wide.

A flash point arrived midway through the half when Northfield was brought down on the edge of the box by Michael Turner. The right back had already been booked and had he not been, the referee would’ve without question been reaching for his pocket once more. 

Biggleswade’s big chance to level arrived 11 minutes from time.  Pat McCafferty half-volleyed across the face of goal and Alex Marsh somehow skewed his shot wide of the post with the goal at his mercy. 

In a final throw of the dice, FC threw on Justin Leavers and Abraham Eze in bid to force extra-time, but the latter wasted the visitors best opportunity of the closing moments when his attempted lob sailed harmlessly to safety.

City valiantly held on to booked their place in the semi-final where they will take on league rivals Cray Valley.