Thursday 01st September 2005

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Saturday 12th
March 2005
FA Trophy (Carlsberg)
Stephen McCartney reports from Woodside Park
Bishop's Stortford 1 Dave Rainford 90
Gravesend & Northfleet 1 Manny Omoyinmi 17

Ten-man Fleet denied by last gasp equaliser

GRAVESEND & NORTHFLEET boss Liam Daish is confident his side will progress into the semi-finals of the FA Trophy.

The Fleet took the lead after 17 minutes at Woodside Park through striker Manny Omoyinmi's tenth strike of the season but just two minutes later they were reduced to ten-men when Justin Skinner, the last defender, was harshly sent off for shoulder barging Duane Jackman to the ground 24-yards from goal.

Fleet's ten-men battled well for the remainder of the game, keeping their Nationwide South hosts - who had already knocked Conference sides Dagenham & Redbridge and Canvey Island out of the competition - at bay for most of the game until the second minute of injury time when Blue's skipper Dave Rainford headed home a dramatic equaliser to earn them a lucrative replay at Stonebridge Road on Tuesday night (7.45pm).

The game attracted the stadium's highest ever attendance, and a huge following had made the journey up from Kent.

The first real chance of the game came after eight minutes for the home side when Jackman poked the ball past the Fleet full-back and lobbed the advancing goalkeeper Paul Wilkerson but the ball went the wrong side of the near post.

Gravesend, however, took the lead with their first opportunity on goal.  Andrew Drury, who impressed throughout, sent in a dangerous low cross from the right, which was stroked towards goal by former Stortford striker Roy Essandoh, who was closely marked.  The ball came back off the foot of the far post but Omoyinmi was there to fire in the rebound from seven yards into the far corner.

It was the start the Nationwide Conference side had wanted but only two minutes later they were reduced to ten men when Skinner was harshly red-carded by Worcester referee Steve Dorr.  Jackman latched onto Steve Morison's (16 goals this season, and top scorer in the competition  with eight goals to his name) through ball but Skinner's shoulder barge brought the striker to the ground.

As the home fans demanded "off, off, off," out came the red card from Dorr's pocket, giving the home side a huge opportunity to secure a place in the last four.

From the resulting, well-worked free kick, Fleet goalkeeper Paul Wilkerson got down low to save Rainford's driven shot on goal from outside the box.

Bishop's Stortford should have taken the lead after 24 minutes when Anthony's Allman free kick went over the flapping Fleet goalkeeper and was met at the far post by Morison's head but he planted the chance into the side netting.  His reaction was one of pure agony, holding his head in his hands as he got caught up in the netting.

Drury drove a fierce shot straight into Andrew Young's midriff and at the other end Alex Martin's volley, after a cut-back from Ben Lewis, sailed over the roof of the terracing, which housed the home fans as well as most of the noisy travelling Fleet hardcore.

Although Wilkerson's handling was good, his kicking, especially in the first half was very poor, mainly finding touch or over the roof of the stand, which brought jeers from the Blues' followers.

On the hour-mark, both sides had appeals for penalties turned down by the man-in-the-middle - Omoyinmi being felled by a challenge from Gareth Gwillim seconds after a penalty appeal for handball inside the Fleet area.

Playing only ten men it was now time for the home side to siege the visitors goal and Allman, in space, tried his luck from distance, but the shot was never going to hurt Gravesend but one of the many cars parked in the stadium car park.

Fleet, however, had a chance to wrap up the victory with 25 minutes left.  Drury's cross from the by-line was cut back to Steve McKimm inside the six-yard box and his side-footed shot was blocked by Allman, who was tightly marking the Fleet skipper.

The home side made a double change - and Fleet who had lost Lee Protheroe early in the second half - did well to keep possession and kept the Hertforshire side at bay.

The home fans urged their heroes on.  Fleet, however, were trying to hold onto their comfortable but slender lead.

Had Stortford came alive much earlier than they did then they could have got more out of this trophy tussle.

Another chance for Fleet arrived with ten minutes to go.  Drury, latching onto Essandoh's though ball, lost his composure and shot over.

The 86th minute introduction of substitute Paul Hakim was Stortford manager Martin Hayes' last throw of the dice.

And Woodside Park erupted in the 91st minute of the game.  Ben Lewis launched a long through into the penalty area, close to the corner flag, and Rainford jumped up to head towards the goal.  The home fans held their breath as Wilkerson was left rooted to the spot and watched the ball creep inside the far corner, which brought scenes of ecstasy around most sides of the stadium where the locals were but stunned the travelling contingent.

Although disappointed his side didn't go through at the first attempt, Fleet boss Liam Daish was pleased with his players work-rate - but he is confident they can finish off the job at Stonebridge Road on Tuesday.

"The lads worked extremely hard," he said.  "I thought we deserved a little bit more out of that but we are not out of it.  We've got a replay at home now so still plenty to play for."

What pleased him the most?  "We'll just the way the lads worked for each other.  It was typical of them really.  Since I've been there they've worked very hard", he said.

"We had the better chances in the second half, had a couple of chances where we could have made it 2-0 and then it's a different story altogether.

"But it's not to be so we'll regroup, look after ourselves, and we'll be up for it on Tuesday," he insisted.

Losing Skinner so early on and a couple of injuries meant Daish had to reshuffle the pack and he added: "We had to change a number of times as we were forced to do that.  We seemed to cope quite well, we knew what their strengths were.  The lads defended very well, we didn't do anything rash, we stayed on our feet and worked so hard.

"I felt quite comfortable, there is always going to be hairy moments but we were always going to be the ones to go through but it's not the case.  It doesn't always go your own way and sometimes, to win a trophy, you've got to go over hurdles and go through tests like this.

"We'll be allright Tuesday, we'll be looking forward to it.  We are not out of it.  They've got to come to our place now and we'll see what they're about.  it's going to be a tough game for us, but we are not out of this competition."

Stortford, however, will fancy their chances in Kent on Tuesday, having reached the quarter-finals by beating Canvey Island, at the second attempt, although that replay was at Woodside Park.  Daish, however, will still give the lower league side the respect they deserve.

He said: "We knew they needed respect, we gave them respect and we'll need to give them respect on Tuesday.  But we will be more worried and concerned about us, as long as we're right we'll look to progress, hopefully."

Bishop's Stortford: Andrew Young, Anthony Allman (Paul Hakim 86), Gareth Gwillim, Dave Rainford (Capt), Ben Lewis, Alex Riches, Duane Jackman, Steve Parmenter (Richard Howell 66), Steve Morison (Mervin Abraham 67), Tim Langer, Alex Martin.  Subs: Laurie Stewart, Stuart Horne

Gravesend & Northfleet: Paul Wilkerson, Lee Protheroe (Jimmy Jackson 48), Justin Skinner (sent off 19), Lee Gledhill, Paul McCarthy (Ben Surey 16), Andy Drury, Jay Saunders, Steve McKimm, Matt Lovell, Roy Esandoh, Manny Omoyinmi (James Pinnock 81).  Subs: Moussa Sidibe, Clark Masters

Attendance:  1163
Referee: Steve Dorr (Worcester)
Assistants: Gavin Muge & Declan Ford
Fourth Official:  Darren Deadman