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Northwich 3 Harriers 2 (3-4 agg)     FA Trophy Semi Final 2nd leg

Date: 17-03-07 Venue: Victoria Stadium att: 2129 away fans: 1100 approx
Que sera, sera, we're going to Wemberly
We finally made it to the new Wembley today with this nail biting game at Northwich.    A game that we started with a two goal advantage and then threw it away in a freak ten minute spell after dominating the game for the first ten minutes.

Thanks to a first ever Mark Creighton goal we managed to regain the advantage and then more nail biting set in as the, frankly incompetent referee, added on five minutes of injury time at the end of the game.    A five minutes in which he gifted the Vics an absolutely dubious penalty.

It wasn't enough though and when the final whistle did come it led to jubilant celebrating and a pitch invasion from the in excess of a thousand travelling Harriers fans.    Fans carried the much maligned Harriers chairman, Barry Norgrove, shoulder high onto the pitch to join in with their celebrations.

Over in Hertfordshire there was more nail biting as Stevenage struggled to overcome Grays Athletic.    Stevenage were leading from their first leg game at Grays but then Grays scored a second half goal to draw the teams level.    The game was taken to extra time, with both sides now knowing who their opponents in the final would be, but Stevenage sealed the game and the right to a Wembley trip with two extra time goals.

So on May 12th that is where we will be.    Playing Stevenage Borough in the FA Trophy Final 2007.

Back to Northwich and this game started again without our regular goal keeper, Scott Bevan.    Was he still out with a calf injury that forced him to miss the midweek win at Oxford or was it a confirmation of the rumours that he had been in a dis-agreement with Mark Yates and his punishment was to be dropped out of the side.

It's hard to believe such a story and one hopes that it isn't true because Steve Taylor is no replacement for the first choice keeper, even more so after both the Northwich first half goals came from goal keeper errors compounded by poor defensive work.

The first came from Matt Shaw when he picked up a Jon McCarthy ball and took it on into the area.    Jeff Kenna was beaten all ends up as Shaw ghosted past him and Stuart Whitehead failed to intervene quickly enough to stop Shaw firing in from a narrow angle.    Taylor was rooted to his line and also failed to deal with the threat by coming out to meet, and narrow the gap, soon enough and the ball went under the rookie keeper and into the far netting.

On fifteen minutes Northwich had drawn the tie level after the ball was played over the top of the Harriers defence and bounced just in front of the area.    Instead of back tracking to claim the ball within the area Taylor opted to head it weakly to the feet of Carlos Roca who then accomplished a well taken volley over the head of the hapless keeper.

Up until then we had looked first class with the game being taken to the home side.    Within three minutes of the start Russ Penn had ripped through the Vics defence and played in James Constable to shoot but the frontman was caught in two minds between taking his chance or squaring the ball for the better placed Iyseden Christie.    He opted for the former with the result being a soft shot that was easily handled by Ben Connett in the Northwich goal.

Russ Penn could have scored himself a few minutes later but screwed his shot well wide from the edge of the area.

It wasn't all going the Harriers way though and Roca came close when he latched onto another high ball over the defence to send in a shot just over Taylors goal.

Simon Russell was having another great game and was running rings around the Northwich defender.    He jinked first one way then the other and then played in a great cross for Constable to head over and then repeated the feat again for Gavin Hurren but Trigger headed wide when he could have easily done better.

Then came the Northwich comeback.

After getting over the initial shock of seeing our advantage taken away from us the Harriers fans burst back into song and tried to spur the team on.    It must have worked because in the twenty fourth minute Mark Creighton got his first ever goal.

We were awarded a corner and Jonny Harkness took it.  The ball was half cleared by the home side but straight back to Harkness who played the ball back in again for Creighton to soar above the defence and head the ball home.

In the build up to the goal Jon McCarthy had got injured and was eventually replaced, thankfully, with Terry Barwick.    Soon after Michael Blackwood sent in a piledriver towards goal but unlucky for Michael Carr it hit him full in the face and sent him poleaxed to the floor.    It looked bad for the Vics lad but thankfully after lengthy treatment he recovered enough to carry on.

Northwich hit back with a shot from six yards out by the dangerous Paul Brayson but it was well saved by Taylor who then cleared the ball upfield for Blackwood to send in a cross at the other end that just failed to creep inside the far post.

On the stroke of half time Russell tried to repeat his stunning goal at Oxford by sending in a volley that was only just over.    He had another chance a couple of seconds later when again made space for himself before crashing in a shot that Connett did well to keep hold of and then messed up by dropping it at the feet of Constable.    He pounced on it quickly to shut out the danger.
HT: 2 - 1
In the second half we looked a bit nervous for some unknown reason and an element of casualness crept into our game along with mistakes being made that didn't really help our cause.    One of those mistakes could have seen the sending off of Harkness after he pulled Carrs shirt as the Vics striker went forward on goal.    Luckily the ref realised that Harkness wasn't the last man and he got away with just a booking.

The free kick was wasted by Brayson when he kicked it straight at the wall.

Slowly we got back into the game again and saw some efforts from Constable that he really should have done better with.    The first shot went straight at the keeper and the second was an overhead kick that had no power behind it and was caught simply by Connett.

In the sixty ninth minute we regained our two goal advantage when Russ Penn capitalised on a moment of confusion within the Northwich ranks when Gavin Hurren went down injured and, with both sides waiting for the whistle to allow Trigger to receive treatment, Christie played the ball forward for Penn to run onto, take his time and then slot the ball under the advancing keeper.    The ball slowly rolled into the goal with the Harriers fans waiting to celebrate but finally it did and some fans got a bit over excited and invaded the pitch where they were immediately thrown back into the stand by the over enthusiastic Northwich stewards.

Meanwhile Hurren wasn't responding to treatment and was eventually replaced by Jake Sedgemore.

The game was more equally balanced now and could have gone either way with both sides coming close to scoring but neither managing it.    The Vics had chances from Brayson and Carr with chances for us coming from the feet of Russell and Constable.

With time running down the next big surprise was the addition of five minutes of injury time.    We were already on tenterhooks with Northwich flinging everything at us and to then have to cope with another five minutes of it was asking a bit much.

As it was it took that moment of incompetence from the ref to make our wait even more agonising when he awarded the home side a penalty that should never have been.

The ball was crossed into the area and looked to be evading everyone when Kevin Townson stuck his hand out and Taylor tried to grab it at the same time.    The stupid official must have decided that a goal keeper handling the ball in his own area was illegal and pointed to the spot.

He then tried to cover himself by asking his assistant about it and they then both came to the conclusion that the goal keeper HAD handled it and so the penalty stood.

Michael Carr made no mistake from the spot but without the ref being able to find any more time to add on he had to settle for his adopted side being knocked out of the Trophy.

We have to settle for a trip to the new showpiece centre of English football.    Nevermind.
FT: 3 - 2

 Goals for Northwich: Shaw 11, Roca 14, Carr 90 pen
 Goals for Harriers: Creighton 25, Penn 71

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Northwich  subs   cards      Harriers  subs   cards 
Connett     S Taylor  
Roberts     Kenna  
Battersby gif   Harkness gif
Griffiths     Hurren  
Charnock     Creighton  
Carr     Whitehead  
McCarthy     Russell gif
Smart     Penn  
Brayson     Christie gif
Shaw     Constable  
Roca     Blackwood  
SUBS:       SUBS:    
Senior     Sedgemore  
Barwick gif   Smikle  
Townson     White  
Mayman     Hay  
Byrne     Reynolds  

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