West Auckland Town 2-1 Herne Bay - I'm disappointed that we're not going to play at Wembley - Halsey

Saturday 31st March 2012

(West Auckland Town win 4-3 on aggregate)
The FA Carlsberg Vase Semi-Final Second Leg
Saturday 31st March 2012
Stephen McCartney reports from Darlington Road

HERNE BAY manager Simon Halsey says he will remember his side’s epic FA Carlsberg Vase run this season despite suffering semi-final heartbreak away to Northern League outfit West Auckland Town.

The Kent Hurlimann Football League leaders fought back from being 2-0 down after only eighteen minutes of last Saturday’s first-leg at Winch’s Field, but goals from Byron Walker and Rhys Lawson ensured there was plenty to play for in the North East of England.

Herne Bay got off to a dream start when left-back Tom Bryant caressed a fine left-footed finish into the roof of the net after just 12 minutes, but they couldn’t find a crucial second.

West Auckland Town, who played with ten-men for the last 43 minutes when left-back Andrew Green was red-carded, sealed their place at Wembley – where they will meet fellow Northern League rivals Dunston UTS- courtesy of striker Michael Rae, who twice got in behind the flat-footed Herne Bay defence, to score  twice in a devastating six minute spell before half-time.

With jubilant home fans' celebrating in the background, which was hard to take for the visiting crowd, Halsey was proud of his players afterwards.

“It’s been a great road and we got to a barrier but we ain’t crossed it,” said the 47-year-old.

“I’d like to thank everyone who have supported us all the way through.  The fans’ were here again, yourselves (the Kent press) and the players for getting us as far as we have in the Cup, supporting me.

“When I took over, no-one would’ve thought that Simon Halsey and his 22-man squad were going to get so close to Wembley – but we have.”

Herne Bay return to Kent League action with a trip to Culverden Stadium on Tuesday night and Erith & Belvedere have now closed the gap to two points, although Herne Bay have four games in hand and are still favourites to clinch the title to ensure that today was their last FA Vase tie.

Halsey said: “I don’t like clichés, but we’ve got a massive game Tuesday night now, Tunbridge Wells, away and I’ve got to put my managerial skills into progress and make sure that my players are dusted off and ready to go again.”

Herne Bay started the game on the front foot and James Campbell came up from the back to glance a header wide from ten-yards after Ben Brown floated in a corner inside the opening two minutes.

West Auckland Town’s first chance swiftly followed when the impressive Matthew Moffat spread the ball across for right-back Neil Pattinson, who cut inside and cracked a left-footed shot sailing over the crossbar from 25-yards.

But Herne Bay’s travelling supporters were dreaming about Wembley after their side took a deserved early lead.

Michael Jenner’s free-kick was cleared and the ball was picked up by Lawson on the edge of the West Auckland penalty area and his pass was flicked into the box by Campbell and Bryant superbly turned his marker and with only goalkeeper Mark Bell to beat the left-back swept a fine left-footed shot into the roof of the net.

Halsey said: “We started like a steam train to be honest. I was over the moon with the first 20-25 minutes, how we started.

“If anyone’s got any pictures of when we scored, I didn’t move.  I always stand on the right hand side of my technical area on the square on the corner.  We scored and everyone was jumping around me.  I just stood there because I’m not stupid enough to know that was game, set.

“I stood there and I thought we’ve got a long way to go.  Unfortunately it’s proved me right.

“Tom’s put us ahead and for some reason we started letting the game get stretched. We started dropping deeper.  It made midfield, perhaps, do a bit more work.  Then they started finding little holes.” 

West Auckland’s players were big and physical all over the park and their front two of Rae and Moffat were a handful in both games.

Halsey added: “They’re probably the best two strikers, along with the one I’ve seen at Shortwood (Kevin Slack), who I’ve seen for a long, long, long time, very great movement and when they get around the 18-yard box, they’ll finish!”

West Auckland Town were dangerous down the right flank and Jonathan Gibson crossed the ball with his left foot to find Moffat at the far post, who was booked by referee Mr Richard Madley for trying to punch the ball into the net from two-yards out, but visiting keeper Dan Eason got across his goal to claw the ball out at his near post.

Herne Bay almost doubled their advantage halfway through the first half when right-back Toby Ashmore lofted a right-footed clearance upfield from just inside his own half, the ball seemed destined to loop over goalkeeper Bell, who pulled off a fine save in the end, back-peddling to tip the ball over at the last second.

The basic Darlington Road ground was rocking, however, when West Auckland Town equalised in the 31st minute.

Rae was released in behind the flat-footed Herne Bay back-four and clinically slotted a right-footed shot past the exposed Eason.

A bitterly disappointed Halsey, didn’t want to speak in depth of the way that Rae scored both of his goals.

He said:  I think both of them really, just sloppy, sloppy goals.”

Herne Bay couldn’t cope with skill and strength of Rae and Moffatt.

Rae almost doubled his side’s advantage when from the edge of the box he played winger Stuart Banks in behind Bryant and Campbell, but Herne Bay were let-off as the right-footed shot sailed high over the bar.

But Herne Bay failed to heed that warning as West Auckland scored the winning goal in the 37th minute, through Rae's 21st goal of the season.
Rae played a fine one-two with Moffat, who slipped his strike partner in behind the Herne Bay defence again and Rae drove a right-footed shot across Eason and the ball nestled into the bottom far corner.

Halsey said: “Yes, he was (the difference between the two sides), but we let him have the difference.  If we snuffed him out then he wouldn’t have got the two chances.

“Two sloppy goals, again, as far as I’m concerned.  What is done, is done now.  It was written.  It’s fate and we have to move on.  It’s serious we have to win that Kent League (title) now.”

Rae’s brace stunned Herne Bay and Eason was forced to pluck the ball from underneath his own crossbar after Adam Nicholls cut inside Dan Lawrence and Bryant.

Herne Bay, who had just lost central defender Steve Hanson to a re-occurance of his hamstring injury, forced a chance just before the break when skipper Luke Harvey hooked the ball across the face of goal, which deceived West Auckland’s right-back Pattinson, but Lawson could only slide in at the far post and steer his shot wide from a tight angle.

Herne Bay were let off the hook when a post saved them from going 3-1 down, with the last action of the first half.

Pattinson clipped the ball down the line and Gibson whipped in an excellent cross to find an unmarked Rae at the near post and his header from ten-yards clipped the near post with Eason beaten.

The Kent side were given a huge lifeline when Green was shown a straight red-card, just 113 seconds into the second half, for an alleged elbow on Harvey, which laid out the hard-working Herne Bay striker.

When asked how he saw the incident, Halsey said: “He caught him!  Whether it was his fist or his elbow, it was completely intentional!  I’ve got no qualms about that.  I don’t know how they can moan about that!”

Unfortunately, Walker’s absence was to prove to be Herne Bay’s downfall as they certainly missed the 25-year-old’s pace and trickery, which would have caused the West Auckland Town’s defence problems.

Herne Bay squandered an excellent chance to claw themselves back into the game in the 50th minute when Ashmore broke up an attack from the home side, stabbed the ball to Jenner, who pumped a ball over the top of the West Auckland defence to put Harvey through on goal, but the 25-year-old was just too far out to trouble Bell, who got down low to his right to make a comfortable low save.

The Herne Bay faithful probably felt their luck was out when Jenner’s ball over the top released Lawson, who shrugged off the attentions of Pattinson and cracked a left-footed shot from the edge of the box. 

Keeper Bell was left rooted to the spot, but the ball crashed against the underside of the crossbar and bounced down and dropped into Bell’s gloves.

Halsey said: “We had our chances in the game, but when we went 2-1 down, we didn’t play our normal way of football and we let the game get away from us a bit.

“Lawson had one that his the bar and it came down and hit the line and came out and we gave it a go so I’m the proudest person outside of Kent at the moment and I’ll be glad to get on that coach and get back home (to Rainham).

Walker’s replacement, James Turner, did slot a right-footed shot across Bell and into the far corner in the 58th minute but the offside flag had already been raised.

From then on, Herne Bay just kept pumping high balls, which was meat and drink for a physically strong back four, whilst Moffatt, who had dropped back, keenly supported lone striker Rae when he could when the home side broke away.

Halsey said: “The game was away from us and we started chasing it and we perhaps weren’t doing what we’re good at.

“I said to the players’ we had to have to be on 8’s and 9’s (marks out of ten), but some of them didn’t really reach 8.   It was between 7’s and sixes, but that’s football.  There’s not a lot I can do about that.”

West Auckland were close to finishing off the job with seventeen minutes remaining when man-of-the-match Rae cut inside two players inside the Herne Bay box and he swept the ball across the face of goal and Gibson was unlucky when his left-footed shot deflected just past the foot of the near post.

From that moment, the travelling fans sensed their time in the competition was up, especially when Karl Williams, a striker called up from the reserves, fluffed his big moment when he picked up the ball inside the West Auckland box, but he snatched at the chance, flashing his shot wide of the near post.

Eason, who twice needed treatment after going down in the second half, thwarted West Auckland at the death.

Moffat had two attempts to score his 35th goal of the season when his left-footed shot was beaten away by the highly-rated 22-year-old stopper, who then made a flying save and stuck out his arm to tip away Moffat’s looping follow-up shot.

The number six board was put up by the fourth official but Herne Bay couldn’t find a last-gasp equaliser as hundreds of home fans sprinted onto the pitch at the final whistle to worship their heroes.

A disappointing, heartbreaking day for Herne Bay, but a run that they can look back on with immense pride.

Halsey said: “I’ve just said to the lads’ in there, I couldn’t talk to them not because I was emotional, what could I say after what they’ve just let go?

“I’ve seen them grow as young men individually and grow as a squad collectively and I haven’t got a moment in the whole run. I’m just glad of the whole team, the whole squad and the club.  They’ve backed me with everything I’ve asked for,  I’ve been a little bit pushy sometimes but I just strive for success and as far as I’m concerned they’ve backed me all the way and we’ve prepared for every game properly.

“It weren’t with us today unfortunately.”

Let’s hope West Auckland treat the Wembley public with more respect than they did their Kent rivals. Claiming that Herne Bay were “Cockney c***s” and claiming that “West Auckland is wonderful, it’s full of t**s, f***y and smackheads,” will not go down well with respectable members of the public who will be watching them in their first FA Vase final.

Halsey said his side lost with dignity, saying, “It hurts.  It hurts, but my boys’ are very dignified in everything they do and I made sure and they made sure among all the scenes of joy, they went round to their manager, every player out there and shook hands.  The crowd were on the pitch around them but my  lads’ showed a great sense of pride for me.

“It weren’t a great scene (for us) but you have to get on with it!”

Halsey is sad that he won’t be giving Kent a big day out at Wembley on Sunday, 13 May.

He said: “I was dreaming about leading them out (at Wembley).  The fans’ were dreaming about supporting them and obviously (the Kent press) were going to be supporting us there as well.  “It’s not going to happen now.”

Halsey added: “Thank you very much for your support and everyone in Kent, thank you!”

When asked if the better footballing side won over 180 minutes of football, Halsey replied, “The team that won is there, at Wembley.  I don’t know if they’re the best team.  I’m just disappointed that Herne Bay haven’t got a chance of playing football at Wembley.”

Halsey added: “We must win the Kent League.”

West Auckland Town: Mark Bell, Neil Pattinson, Andrew Green, Jonathan Gibson, John Parker, Mark Stephenson, Stuart Banks, Mark Hudson, Matthew Moffat, Michael Rae, Adam Nicholls (Matthew Coad 59).
Subs: Steven Brown, Martin Young, Daryll Hall, Ross Preston

Goals: Michael Rae 31, 37

Booked: Matthew Moffat 21, Neil Pattinson 90

Sent Off:  Andrew Green 47

Herne Bay:  Dan Eason, Toby Ashmore, Tom Bryant, Steve Hanson (Tom Parker 42), James Campbell, Michael Jenner, Dan Lawrence, Ben Brown (Karl Williams 82), James Turner (Liam Wellings 65), Luke Harvey, Rhys Lawson.
Subs:  Ollie Bartrum, Brad Ashmore

Goal:  Tom Bryant 12

Booked: Tom Parker 90

Attendance: 1,840
Referee: Mr Robert Madley (Ossett, West Yorkshire)
Assistants: Mr Mark Dwyer (Castleford, West Yorkshire) & Mr Matthew Dicicco (Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire)
Fourth Official: Mr Anthony Blackhorse (Brampton, Cumbria)