Sunday, 5 April 2009

Game 11: Glossop North End 2, Chalfont St Peter 2 (after extra time, Glossop won 6-5 on penalties)

Semi-Final, 2nd Leg ~ Saturday 4th April 2009
Venue: Surrey Street, Glossop, Derbyshire
Attendance: 1582

Distance travelled: 404 miles

Brian Clough famously said "it only takes a second to score a goal". In a split second a game of football can turn dramatically. Yesterday, at Surrey Street, in the very last second of extra-time in the 2nd Leg of an FA Vase Semi-Final, Glossop's Kelvin Lugsden scored a most unlikely equaliser. In one fleeting moment, in an instant, a course of events was altered beyond all recognition. Chalfont St Peter were moments away from a big day at Wembley but then, in the blink of an eye, their dreams were snatched away. The tie went to penalties, Chalfont never recovered and Glossop's Rick Bailey converted the winning spot-kick to spark scenes of mass celebration amongst the home support. Glossop were now the ones in dreamland. In a single second, despair had turned to ecstasy, joy to heartbreak. Football: bloody hell! Don't you just love it?

To be frank, this wasn't a classic game. It was an edgy affair and the occasion, and all that was at stake, seemed to weigh heavily and stifle proceedings. But don't for one second believe that this wasn't entertainment of the highest order. With both teams locked at 3-3 after the 1st Leg, this really was a case of winner takes all. For the victors, a day at Wembley on Sunday 10th May was the prize and this fact alone provided a back-drop for an afternoon of high drama in the High Peak.

Whilst the 'Car of Fun' was being inflated up in Glossop, the 'Car of Idiots' was being loaded up with me, PB, Mackem and Posh Mate for a 200 mile trek from Surrey to Surrey Street. My desperate battle to retain a degree of neutrality whilst attending these FA Vase games was thrown completely out of the window by the time we had reached Watford Gap. The thought of seeing my home town club, Glossop, step out at Wembley was too much to bear and the mixture of excitement and nervousness was palatable. Copious renditions of 'Viva GNE' were starting to annoy my passengers before we had even exited the M25; by the time we reached the M1 I had been physically abused with some Chili Doritos and bag of Wine Gums.

So can I offer a neutral match report? I'll try. The records will show that Glossop stormed into an early lead, Rick Bailey firing home from the angle after only 2 minutes. Chalfont levelled on the half-hour mark when Terrell Lewis prodded in a loose ball. It stayed 1-1 to full-time, 4-4 on aggregate. Into extra-time, Chalfont scored what seemed to be the winner on 101 minutes, Charlie Strutton netting for the visitors. Then at the death, a dramatic twist on 120 minutes (plus stoppage time) that saw Lugsden score to haul Glossop back from the brink. Glossop won the penalty shoot-out 6-5, but more on that later.

In amongst all those facts, there isn't a huge deal to report on. In almost identical playing conditions to the 1st Leg at Chalfont a week earlier, a strong wind played its part. A fair proportion of the sell-out crowd were still entering the ground when Rick Bailey opened the scoring. Playing against the wind, a free-kick was thrown into the Chalfont box and half cleared. Hodges picked up the loose ball and slipped it into Bailey who slotted home with composure. What a great start for Glossop.

A few minutes later Chalfont claimed a penalty when Barry Brosnan appeared to have been pushed in the area, but the referee waved away the appeals. From then on in, neither team managed to get a grip on the game. A lot of the ball was in the air and the wind was the only winner. Martin Parker battled well up front for Glossop, winning many headers with his height, but lacked support. Chalfont, as they did in the first game, tried to outwit the conditions by playing their game at turf level, but made too many mistakes. It was a scrappy affair.

On 28 minutes Chalfont's Charlie Strutton found some space in the area only to be bustled off the ball and Ashlea Gotham in the Glossop goal tidied up. But two minutes later, Gotham was tested with a high ball into the box. The diminutive young keeper misjudged the swirling ball and fumbled in an attempt to pluck it out of the air; the ball fell to Terrell Lewis for an easy tap in. Not long after the equaliser, Gotham dropped a cross from Jerome Okimo but recovered well to smother.

As half-time approached, Glossop became more wasteful of possession and the visiting 'Saints' began to control the game. Their passing was a little more assured. On 39 minutes the visitors fired a ball into the box; Gotham followed the across his area in the belief it was going out of play. Brosnan reacted sharply to Gotham's hesitancy and got to the ball ahead of the keeper. Gotham was now out of position and a moment of panic ensued, only for the referee to rule that the ball had indeed crossed the line for a goal-kick.

The second half was dominated by much endeavour and no shortage of huff and puff, but little real quality in front of goal. On 53 minutes a flicked header from Dave Hodges was gathered comfortably by Chalfont's Mark Oliver. 10 minutes later, Rick Bailey found some space but fired straight at the keeper. Two efforts on the hour mark summed up the nature of the game. Glossop's Jamie Kay shot high and wide from long range; Chalfont's Lee Togwell's effort was worse, shooting higher and wider. His effort trickled out embarrassingly for a throw. With the clock ticking down, Glossop's Kelvin Lugsden headed over and Nick Allen sprang the offside trap only to slip at the vital moment. 1-1 at full-time.

So on into extra-time. Chalfont attacked Glossop from the off. On 93 minutes, Lewis shot from a tight angle and Gotham got down well to smother. Alan Hedley then had a free header (95 minutes) but his effort was directed straight into the arms of the Glossop keeper. With 97 minutes on the clock, Chalfont looked certain to score. A mistake from Gotham let in Carl Tasker whose goal bound shot was cleared dramatically off the line with a stooping header from Glossop's Danny Yates.

Then, with 101 minutes played, the almost inevitable happened and Chalfont got the breakthrough that they probably deserved. It was agony once again for Gotham who spilled a long range shot from Adam Louth straight to Charlie Strutton who gleefully netted. The small travelling contingent from Buckinghamshire celebrated wildly as the remainder of Surrey Street fell totally silent. With the tie ebbing away from the Hillmen, I thought Glossop had equalised at the end of the first period of extra-time. A corner was met by the head of Hodges. I was right in line with his effort and watched it sail towards an empty net only to see it flash inches over. Maybe it was just going to be Chalfont's day.

The second period of extra-time was agonising to watch. Chalfont defended well and seemed odds-on to cling to their slim advantage. With my neutrality strewn across the M1, I joined in the collective nail biting as Glossop's hopes of a Wembely Final receded with every passing minute. On 106 minutes Jamie Kay had a shot cleared off the line, but this only increased the sense of hopelessness for the home side. The Glossop players began to cramp up and became increasingly frustrated with their own below-par performance, and that of the referee who brandished a couple of yellow cards for reasons only he will know. With 120 minutes on the clock, Jay Gorton shot over for Glossop and at that point Glossop's last chance had seemingly come and gone. I wrote in my notepad "Game Over".

With almost an additional 3 minutes of time added on to the extra-time, the referee blew his whistle. A few of the Chalfont players rushed from their packed dugout to celebrate the win, but quickly returned, tails between their legs, when they realised that a free-kick had been awarded to Glossop. One last chance for the men in blue? Dave Young punted a long, high and hopeful ball into the Chalfont box. There was the briefest of a scramble before the ball fell to Rick Bailey, who seemed certain to score from a matter of yards. He blasted over, his shot taking a deflection off a Chalfont player on its way. From the corner, Balfe headed the ball back into the six yard box and then, in a heartbeat, Lugsden pounced to crash the ball home. Surrey Street erupted and Lugsden wheeled away with his arms outstretched, his team mates in hot pursuit. Unbelievable stuff. I have to admit that I celebrated like a loon and yes, there were a few tears blurring my vision.

There was just enough time for Lugsden to get booked for his celebrations and the final whistle blew. The late, late goal had breathtakingly thrown the tie into the lottery that is penalties. Chalfont went first; John Carroll, Edward Chamlal and Adam Louth all scored as did Mark Balfe, Dave Young and Tom Bailey for Glossop. In front of the packed Glossop end, Chalfont's Lewis Cumber blasted over only for Glossop's Jamie Kay to then have his kick saved. Carl Tasker and Nick Allen netted comfortably for either side; 4-4 after 5 kicks each and into sudden death. The tension was unbearable.

Jerome Okimo and Jay Gorton scored for Chalfont and Glossop respectively. Up stepped Lee Togwell for the visitors; Gotham pulled off a magnificent save, pushing the ball around the post. Now was the moment of truth; a physically shattered Rick Bailey slowly approached the penalty spot in the knowledge that his kick could take Glossop to Wembley. He coolly slotted home giving Mark Oliver no chance. Cue Glossop scenes of ecstasy, cue Chalfont scenes of despair.

I felt a little sorry for Chalfont; over the two ties they probably did about enough to warrant a day out at Wembley. But that is Cup football and that is why Cup football appeals so much. It turned out to be a quite incredible day, and the game will live long in the memories of Glossop and Chalfont fans alike. When I woke this morning, I thought for a split second it had all been but a dream. As I wrote this article I was repeatedly hit with waves of incredulity. Did it really happen? If I am dreaming, please do not pinch me. I will see Glossop North End, representing the town where I was born, walk out at Wembley next month. It only takes a second to score a goal but ask any Glossop fan this morning and they will all tell you the same thing: it is dreams fulfilled that last forever.

For all my photos from the game, please click [here].
Match highlights are available on website.

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