CONGLETON TOWN FC 4, LYE TOWN FC 3
(FA Vase Round Three)
Lye Town FC of Stourbridge and the Midland League Premier Division were the opponents facing the Bears in the FA Vase round three on Saturday.
The Flyers, as they are known, occupy a similar position to the Bears in their equivalent league, (writes Mike McLaughlin).
They were “anticipating an incredibly tough tie”.
Bears Manager Duffy was likewise expecting a proper game, having researched the opposition carefully. He reported an improving injury situation but still not ideal, and with several players significantly tired after a demanding sequence of games. He lamented last season’s disappointment at Whitchurch, and hoped for a better performance and result this time. He was able to reinstall Johns in attack, and introduce new signing Mundle in goal.
The day was chill, the light was good and clear; eerily beautiful over the Bosley Cloud and Croker Hill. Some 301 fans looked on as the game began.
Lye immediately poured downbank, pressing hard, forcing early corners and goalmouth palpitations for the Bears’ fans.
The home side retaliated down their right with Sankey and Faulkner linking well with Pope and Williams.
Then, on nine, a mistake in the Bears’ central defence allowed the Flyers’ no.9 to run through and he shot calmly into the net, wide of Mundle, the Bears’ debutant keeper; 0-1.
Johns and Sankey both enjoyed clear sight of goal but both times they were quickly closed down.
The Flyers continued to harass the home defence, repeatedly forcing corners and creating consternation.
However, on 17, a ball upfield reached Sankey. He paused before feeding left into the path of Williams as he surged into the area. A lovely cool finish and it was 1-1.
Back flew the Flyers, a short centre, a close range header, and it was 1-2 on 19.
The home defence and midfield looked surprisingly fragile and vulnerable, unable to cope with the fast, fluent Flyers’ forays.
Over came yet another corner, a scramble in the area and it was 1-3 after 26.
Lye were well on top and threatening to run away with the game.
Prospects for the Bears were bleak in the extreme.
On 35 they did manage a serious attack, when Pope headed a Sankey centre back into the middle, but Hartshorn shot over.
Jones-Griffiths suffered a nasty head injury and had to leave the field.
Fortunately, the pace of play slowed as the interval approached.
The home defence appeared to be settling, establishing some composure, and when, in added time Williams threaded the ball through to Pope, he executed a brilliant tight turn and shot to rifle the ball home; 2-3.
What an undeserved blessing this was after a dire first half performance that merited at least a two-goal deficit.
Hope flickered, and the visitors’ defence had hardly looked impregnable.
Those faint flickers soon flared fiercely as the second half opened.
From the outset the Bears forced the Flyers back into their half and kept them there.
All over the pitch the home side, suddenly energised and buoyant, were winning their tackles and challenges. A short corner reached Sankey and he shot from close, high into the net on 55, 3-3.
The visitors were penned in and around their area for prolonged periods. Any incursions into the Bears’ half were quickly shut down. The transformation from the first half was remarkable.
Sankey had a fierce shot saved, Short shot high into the sky.
On 78 the Flyers’ No.9 retaliated to a typically robust Chadwick challenge with a flailing fist and was dismissed. His team, already desperate, now looked resigned.
The home support roared on their team and, on 85, Hartshorn, from the edge of the area, whipped in a fierce, low shot and the Bears were finally ahead – 4-3.
Several late Flyers’ corners intruded as the Bears strode confidently towards a once most unlikely victory. A heavy collision between Read and Chadwick paused progress, but the Bears ended the game in comfortable control, the fans ecstatic, the Flyers by now fully foiled and frustrated.
What a comeback it had been and what an exciting, entertaining game.
A purse of £1,125 was the reward and a round four game at the Cleric Stadium against Pinchbeck United of The United Counties, Premier Division North.
Cup progress provides rich entertainment, excitement and anticipation.
On Saturday there is opportunity of more when the Bears welcome Lower Breck for a Macron Cup round three tie. The kick-off is 1pm, as a result of requests from Lower Breck and a representation of Bears’ players.
It would be wonderful if more of those ghostly fans materialised to swell support and much-needed club funds.
TV cameras are not a prerequisite for a great afternoon out.