Spennymoor Town 2-1 Tunbridge Wells - We gave it everything on a day to remember, says Jason Bourne

Saturday 04th May 2013

The FA Carlsberg Vase Final
Saturday 4th May 2013
Stephen McCartney reports from Wembley Stadium

TUNBRIDGE WELLS manager Martin Larkin spoke of his immense pride and heartbreak after his brave side picked up runners-up medals following to a standing ovation their first ever FA Carlsberg Vase Final.

The Northern League extended their Wembley dominance of the competition to five-years after Spennymoor Town collected the silverware in their first visit, in front of 16,751 fans at a sun-kissed Wembley Stadium.

Spennymoor arrived in London sitting in second place in the Northern League with only three league defeats from their 41 league games, 22 points adrift of champions Darlington.

The County Durham outfit opened the scoring with their first opening when striker Gavin Gogdon headed home inside seventeen minutes.

But around 12,000 fans that made the short trip from Kent raised the roof when winger Josh Stanford, 22, rifled a right-footed shot into the net with only thirteen minutes left.

But big-spending Spennymoor ensured it was to be a heartbreaking defeat when man-of-the-match Keith Graydon smashed home the winner just 159 seconds later.

“We’re very proud of it and proud of the players and proud of the fans’ that got involved,” said Larkin, 32, afterwards.

“They’re a better side than us. We knew that and we had to go on and make sure that we played and competed and we did that for very long periods of the game, but when it mattered they stepped up at the end and got their winner and full credit to them.

“I don’t want people to think it was a one-sided game. We had our time and we defended well and it just wasn’t to be unfortunately.”

Tunbridge Wells skipper, Jason Bourne, 32, was proud to lead out his home-town club on it’s greatest ever day.

He said: “Extremely proud!  The turnout was unbelievable!  We knew how many people it was going to be, but to see it with your own eyes and the noise they made, everything, it was such a proud moment.

“It was everything I thought it was going to be and more – unfortunately the result didn’t quite go our way.”

Reflecting on the team’s arrival on the lush playing surface in front of an empty stadium and leading the side out on to the pitch just before kick-off, Bourne said: “It was brilliant!  We got here to an empty stadium. That was unbelievable!  We knew everyone was nice and calm and composed, which is everything that you would’ve wanted but then we came in and got dressed and when we came out for a warm-up it was starting to fill up.

“I’ve got my two children (leading the side out) with me, which makes it an even more prouder for me.  To have my two children and share that experience with them was brilliant. It was everything I wanted so we can take that away from it, if nothing else.”

Tunbridge Wells were not overawed by the big occasion and Andy McMath – who is emigrating to Australia in a few weeks’ time - cracked a right-footed shot sailing over the bar from 25-yards after only 19 seconds.

A better chance for the red-shirted heroes arrived when McMath swung in a corner from the right and Perry Spackman rose to glance his header into Robert Dean’s arms as the ball was destined to sail into the corner.

A run from Stanford resulted in Andy Irvine – who has scored seven goals during their FA Vase campaign – heading down and wide of the far post from inside the six-yard box.

But Spennymoor grabbed the lead inside the opening seventeen minutes – right in front of the thousands of Kentish supporters.

Spennymoor left-back Stephen Capper was allowed to reach the by-line before floating over a cross, which wasn’t cleared well by Stanford inside the box and Joe Walton touched the ball to Graydon, who floated his cross back into the middle and the unmarked Gogdon headed the ball across goalkeeper Chris Oladogba into the far corner from ten-yards.

Larkin said: “I thought we let their left-winger run a little bit too far with the ball and we haven’t cleared our lines properly but the 10 (Gogdon) is unbelievable and he’s found some space between Perry (Spackman) and Scott (Whibley) and it was a really good ball in the cross.  Apart from stopping the run early on, it’s pretty much undefendable.”

Spennymoor winger Walton cut the ball back to striker Mark Davison, whose left-footed curler from 20-yards sailed wide of the far post, past the outstretched right arm of the diving Oladogba.

Davison then flicked a pass to put Gogdon through on goal but Tunbridge Wells’ 28-year-old keeper Oladogba made a brave save at the striker’s feet inside his six-yard box.

Good industry from Tunbridge Wells’ winger Jon Pilbeam down the right set up their best chance in the 25th minute, but McMath’s right-footed curler from 25-yards brought a comfortable save from Dean.

Larkin added: “I thought Macca could’ve struck it rather than trying to curl it. He got it on target and that’s all we ask him.  They were good decent chances, half-chances. Not proper one-on-one stuff that we wanted but it was decent.”

A dangerous run from Wayne Phillips saw him reach the left by-line and he floated over a cross towards the far post where Wells’ left-back Lewis Mingle rose with Davison and the ball clipped the top of the far post.

A long ball out of defence from Spennymoor right-back Kallum Griffiths was latched onto by Davison, who beat the offside trap, and he was denied by a flying save from Oladogba, who dived full length to his right to tip the right-footed drive from 25-yards around the post.

When asked what he said to his troops during the half-time interval, Larkin said: “We told them to be brave and get on the ball because we weren’t getting on the ball.  We were a little bit too direct.  We wanted to get the ball down and play and give us an opportunity to win the game – and we did that because we got it down and played.

“Tom Davey got on the ball for us. Josh (Stanford) got on the ball for us and we got an equaliser so it was working, but we just couldn’t hold out until full-time.”

Bourne revealed an inspirational half-time team talk from assistant manager Brad Sandeman raised the troops.

The right-back said: “Brad pretty much said ‘look, this is Wembley boys, we’ve got to get the ball down and play’, because we was a little bit too direct for my liking.

“Second half I thought we got the ball down a lot better, caused them a lot more problems, got into the wide players well and we sort of established ourselves in the game.”

Oladogba, a firm fans’ favourite at Culverden Stadium, kept his side in the game eight minutes into the second half, when he dived high to his left to push Gogdon’s right-footed shot on the turn over the crossbar.

Then, a flicked pass from Graydon gave Davison another chance, but his weak shot across goal was easily gathered by the busy Tunbridge Wells keeper, low to his left to prevent the ball nestling into the bottom far corner.

Larkin made a double substitution just before the hour-mark, bringing on central midfielder Tom Davey and highly-rated 19-year-old striker Jack Harris.

This appeared to galvanise the seventh-placed Kent Hurlimann Football Leaguers as they took the game to their opponents.

Davey clipped a free-kick into the penalty area for Spackman to come up from the back to stick out a leg to prevent the ball sailing behind for a goal-kick – chipping the ball back across goal and Dean was forced to tip the ball over as it dropped.

McMath swung in the resulting corner from the left and Spackman made space for himself but the 29-year-old planted his header agonisingly wide of the far post.

Spackman almost dug his side in a hole when his back-pass was picked up by Oladogba and referee Michael Naylor awarded Spennymoor an indirect free-kick a yard inside the penalty area.  Gogdon touched the ball to Graydon, whose right-footed drive sailed harmlessly high and wide of the far post.

Spennymoor’s front two linked up well together during the game and Gogdon laid the ball off to Davison, whose right-footed chip from 20-yards was caught by Olagodba.

Spennymoor then linked up well down the left with a slick three-man move and the ball was played inside to Graydon who clipped his cross into the box for Davison to glance his header narrowly wide of the far post.

A ball from Davey found Mingle in acres of space and the Tunbridge Wells left-back cracked a speculative right-footed drive from 35-yards sailed over the crossbar and dropped into the second row of seating behind the goal.

But Tunbridge Wells grabbed a lifeline when Stanford netted his ninth goal of the season and the most memorable of his life.

Bourne joined an attack and was given time to whip in a right-footed cross into the penalty area and Dean punched the ball away and the ball dropped down on to Stanford’s right-foot, who cracked a stunning volley which sailed into the roof of the net.

Larkin was delighted that everyone that made the pilgrimage could savour such a moment – and Stanford can tell his grandchildren that he’s scored a goal at Wembley Stadium to join the greats that have graced this Stadium!

Larkin said: “Not just Josh, it was the whole club.  The noise was fantastic and he took it really well.

“I’ve said in there (the dressing room) what did it feel like? He said he can’t describe it because of the noise.  It was good. It was good, but we would’ve preferred to have gone on longer afterwards without conceding.”

When asked how he was felling at the time of their equaliser, the Tunbridge Wells boss replied, “We deserved it I think!  We did! They’re an exceptional side but we defended well. They had a lot of the ball, which we knew they were going to have and when our chance came we took it.

“That’s what we’ve done all the way through the run so it was a deserved goal.”

Bourne added: “The noise was unreal when the goal went in! It lifted the roof off – even if there was sixteen thousand or thirty thousand here it was unbelievable noise.  To do it for those guys, everyone who came along. Hopefully we gave them their money’s worth and a day to remember!

“That’s why everyone wanted to come here for.  They wanted to come here to win something special. Although we couldn’t win it, it was nice to nick a goal. The place went wide, the place went absolutely wild!”

However, joy swiftly turned to heartbreaking despair when Spennymoor Town dashed Tunbridge Wells’ aspirations to join Tommy Sampson’s 2000 Deal Town side as Wembley Winners, with the decisive goal.

Griffiths picked the ball up and sprinted into the penalty area and faced with a three-man red wall in front of him his initial shot was blocked but he cut the ball back to the edge of the box for Graydon to lash his shot beyond Oladogba into the back of the net.

Larkin said: “Unfortunately the ball bobbled along and the guy hit a half-volley on the edge of the box and nine times out of ten in the Kent League that ball goes out of the ground, whereas this is the highest level and he’s put it in the back of the net!”

Sadly that proved to be the killer blow and Jason Ainsley’s side played out the rest of the game comfortably.

But despite the tears, Tunbridge Wells can be proud of their achievements this year, of winning the Kent Senior Trophy and reaching a Wembley Final.

Larkin said: “That’s the highest level that we can play at, at Step five so it was heartbreaking, but we’ve got to use it as a stepping stone.

“We’re very proud.  The whole town was buzzing today. The trains were good fun and we have to get them back to our own ground to watch us because we’re a good side and hopefully people will want to come and watch us at our ground.”

When asked what he will remember the most from today, Larkin said: “Personally, leading them out and looking right and seeing the crowd!  It was just an unbelievable experience. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be.

“It’s a great day for the club. It’s reward for everyone that’s worked hard to get us to this point, but now the message has to be a springboard now. We’ve got to kick on and take it to the next level.”

Larkin added: “Back to the Kent League to win it next season. Simple as that!”

Unfortunately the amateur side – with big hearts – cannot topple the Northern League’s dominance of the competition in the past five years.

Spennymoor join Whitley Bay (2009, 2010, 2011) and Dunston UTS – last years’ holders who lost their grasp on the silverware at Culverden Stadium in the fourth round back in February - as successful sides from the North East.

When asked how he was feeling at the final whistle, Bourne replied, “First emotion was obviously disappointment. The second emotion was how proud I was of the boys. They gave everything and that’s all you can ask them.

“The over-riding emotion is just being proud. Proud for my friends and family that have come here.  It’s a mixture of disappointment but once the dust settles, we’ll know what it’s all about but overriding emotion is definitely pride.

“That’s football. Somebody has to win and somebody has to lose. Unfortunately it was us that came off the wrong end of it but these days don’t come around very often. 

“We’re not happy just to come here for a day out, but equally if the result doesn’t go your way at least we’ve had this experience and you’re given something to the whole town.”

Tunbridge Wells’ faithful can give their side a heroes' reception when they return to Culverden Stadium to play managerless Canterbury City on Monday afternoon, before ending their Kent League campaign at home to Corinthian on 13 May.

Bourne said: “Hopefully now this is something that the club can transfer on to the terracing week in, week out and give us a real stable financial foothold for the future.

“It’s back to the bread and butter. It’s going to be a sobering experience, Canterbury at home on Monday, but one that we’re going to rise to.

“I’m sure that we’ll have a very good turnout to welcome us home to the Culverden. I’m not sure that there will be over sixteen thousand there.  We love everyone that comes to support us.  There’s a hard core between 170-200, who come week in, week out. We really wanted to do it for them. If the club can establish a platform from there it would be unbelievable!”

Spennymoor Town:  Robert Dean, Kallum Griffiths, Chris Mason, Lewis Dodds, Leon Ryan, Stephen Capper, Joe Walton (Andrew Stephenson 73), Keith Graydon, Mark Davison (Michael Rae 75), Gavin Gogdon, Wayne Phillips (Anthony Peacock 64).
Subs: Steven Richardson, David Knight

Goals: Gavin Gogdon 17, Kevin Graydon 80

Booked: Lewis Dodds 84

Tunbridge Wells: Chris Oladogba, Jason Bourne, Lewis Mingle, Joe Fuller (Tom Davey 58), Scott Whibley, Perry Spackman, Jon Pilbeam (Richard Sinden 85), Andy McMath, Andy Irvine, Carl Cornell (Jack Harris 57), Josh Stanford.
Subs: Andy Boyle, RMichal Czanner

Goal: Josh Stanford 77

Booked: Perry Spackman 66, Tom Davey 77

Attendance: 16,751
Referee:  Mr Michael Naylor (Sheffield & Hallamshire FA)
Assistants: Mr Ian Hussin (Liverpool FA) & Mr Dan Robathan (Bedfordshire FA)
Fourth Official: Mr Stephen Martin (Staffordshire FA)