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|Stephen McCartney reports from Stonebridge Road|
|Gravesend & Northfleet||2||Jimmy Jackson 41,90|
Rainford 48 (pen)
Duane Jackman 90
Steve Morison 110
After Extra Time
Agony and the ecstasy
STORTFORD booked their place into the last four of the FA Trophy and a
two-legged showdown with Hucknall Town winning a dramatic and emotionally
charged match at Stonebridge Road.
1086 fans got full value for money, which had five goals, three players sent off and a penalty save in 120 minutes of high drama.
The Fleet weren't the only Nationwide Conference side to go out in a replay, as Hereford United were sent crashing out with a 1-0 defeat at Hucknall.
Fleet boss Liam Daish will be devastated his side didn't progress. Going back to Saturday's clash at Woodside Park, they took a 17th minute lead through Manny Omoyinmi before having Justin Skinner sent off two minutes later. They were held to a draw thanks to Dave Rainford's dramatic injury time header to earn them a replay at Stonebridge Road.
So was it a surprise that we had another dramatic ending tonight?
Bishop's Stortford's fans got behind their heroes throughout the game and the scenes at the final whistle were very emotional for those who had made the worthwhile trip to Kent.
The home side started well with former Bishop Roy Essandoh going close and Andy Drury curling a 20-yarder just over the bar in a bright early opening.
But as we witnessed on Saturday, Bishop's Stortford don't know when to lie down and die and Gravesend & Northfleet join Dagenham & Redbridge and Canvey Island to have been knocked out of the competition by the 1981 competition winners.
They issued the home side a warning as early as the 13th minute when Omoyinmi had the ball stolen off him by Steve Parmenter and he launched a long ball for top-scorer Steve Morison to latch onto. However, the former Northampton Town striker, with 16 goals already this season, found Paul Wilkerson in good form and the stopper managed to get something on the ball, which rolled wide.
Stortford stunned the home faithful again when Mervin Abraham drove a shot just wide from the edge of the box and Wilkerson made a brilliant save to claw Morison's header away from goal and denied the impressive Rainford.
Parity was restored late on as Fleet took the lead four minutes before the break. Jimmy Jackson's left footed drive found the bottom far corner of Andrew Young's net, right in front of the visiting fans were congregated after good work on the other side of the area by Drury.
Enter the drama. On the stroke of half time the first red card of the night came. Frustrated with his side being a goal down, despite bossing the game, Alex Martin lashed out at Fleet skipper Steve McKimm as the ball rolled out of play. The unfortunate thing for the Stortford number eleven was it was right in front of the fourth official and the referee was close by.
Three minutes into the second half the visitors were level when Jay Saunders was adjudged by the assistant to have handled. Rainford, who scored the dramatic leveller in Saturday's game, beat Wilkerson from the spot, although the Fleet goalkeeper went the right way.
Then came the calm before the storm but Fleet striker Essandoh missed three good chances to steal victory. His toe-poke at goal was saved by Young and two headers went the wrong side of the post.
The Kent side had claims for a penalty turned down when Steve Mckimm's penetrative run and a fierce drive at goal saw visiting defender Ben Lewis flop on the ball, which resulted in a melee as players tried to kick the ball from underneath his body.
The clock was exactly on 90 minutes and Stonebridge Road went wild when Jackson unleashed, what everyone from Kent thought to be the match winning strike. From 20-yards he crashed a shot high into the top far corner of the net.
Even the public address announcer screamed the man-of-the-match was Jackson as everyone was making plans for their trip to Hucknall.
However, football is a funny old game and the Fleet fans were left stunned 107 seconds after the ball bulged into Young's net as Stortford's striker Duane Jackman slid the ball past Wilkerson and into the bottom far corner of the net to send the Blue's fans wild.
There was still a lot more to come. Fleet started the first period of extra time with chances to clinch victory but Lee Gledhill crashed a shot into the side netting, and Essandoh clipping the crossbar.
Fleet then had Jay Saunders red-carded in the 95th minute for pulling Jackman back as he bored his way through on goal. Having been booked earlier in the game, yellow turned to red and both sides had ten players on the pitch.
From the resulting free kick, Morison's free-kick sailed high over the bar.
Inside the second period of extra time and even more drama with 13 minutes left. Morison hit the bar and from the rebound Jackman's follow up was handled on the line by Matt Lovell. His only option really, which resulted in him seeing red as well.
Wilkerson made a world class save, diving to his right to push Rainford's spot kick over.
But two minutes later, Fleet's dream died. The impressive Jackman, a product of the Hertfordshire club, rode Gledhill's challenge and cut into the box. He squared the ball to an unmarked Morison who rifled the ball into the net.
With most of the home fans making their way home, Morison raced through an exposed home defence and was denied a second goal by Wilkerson making a good block.
But by then, Kent's dream of Trophy triumph was over.
Arch-rivals Canvey Island visit Stonebridge Road on Saturday (3pm).
& Northfleet: Paul Wilkerson, Graham Porter (Luke Moore 116), Steve McKimm
(Capt), Andy Drury (Moussa Sidibe 105), Roy Essandoh, Jay Saunders (sent off
95), Ben Surey, Matt Lovell (sent off 108), Manny Omoyinmi (James Pinnock 21),
Jimmy Jackson, Lee Gledhill. Subs: Clark Masters, Sam Groombridge
Bishop's Stortford: Andrew Young, Antony Allman, Gareth Gwillin, Dave Rainford (Capt), Ben Lewis, Alex Riches, Richard Howell (Tim Langer 119), Steve Parmenter, Steve Morison (Paul Hakim 117), Mervin Abraham, Alex Martin (sent off 44). Subs: Laurie Stewart, Stuart Horne
Referee: D Cann
Assistants: P Forrester & P Toyer
Fourth Official: R Lee