I had missed a few games due to holidays and despite the three losses we had while I was away, reports had said that we had played well. However, we were still looking for our first win of the season and welcomed Washington FC to the welfare in a distraction from the league in this vase 2nd round qualifying fixture.
As early as the 4th minute Brandon were in front. There was an initial cross-shot which the Washington keeper could only parry back out to the edge of the box, but this was immediately snapped upon by Joe Joyce who struck the ball sweetly on the half volley and the ball flew into the top corner.
We didn’t press home our advantage though and allowed Washington to dominate. There was some sustained pressure from them and we just seemed content to hoof the ball away. However an attack down our left saw the ball crossed into our box. The last defender couldn’t head away and the ball fell to the striker. He controlled, turned and shot low and wide past Robinson in the nets with the ball going in off the post.
We had a good spell ourselves after this and had three half chances in the space of two minutes - forcing two good saves from their ‘keeper before Spence blazed one over from about ten yards out.
As the half drew to a close Washington attacked down the middle. There was a good run from their central defender from his box to almost ours, but Nicholson managed to get a foot in and deflect the ball. This went to Spence who, after steadying himself, played a delightful ball over the heads of the line of defenders to an on rushing Niall Fingleton down the left wing. He was away and ran into the box. It was a tight angle but he swept the ball low and wide of the keeper to slot the ball into the corner of the net to make it 2-1 to Brandon as we went into the break.
The half time team talk worked for Washington and they equalised straights after the break when a shot was fired through a crowd of defenders which unsighted Robinson and he was beaten without moving.
We enjoyed a good spell of pressure and again had three good chances in a five minute spell forcing corners and saves from the keeper. This spell was broken with a quick break from Washington but Robinson saved well low and to his right with his feet.There was a hectic last few minutes of normal time when firstly we gave the ball away in midfield, an interception was missed by Joyeux and Washington were in one on one with Robinson. However as Robinson rushed out to meet him, the Washington player scuffed his ‘shot’ and was easily saved.
After this how we didn’t snatch a last minute winner, I don’t know. Well actually I do, their young keeper. He pulled off TWO superb saves from substitute Luke Bailey whose 20 yard pile driver was pushed round the post and then a minute a later his deft little lob was brilliantly tipped over just as it looked it was heading for the top corner. Their keeper kept the scores level and we went into Extra Time.
There were tired legs aplenty but a great ball from Hindmarch set Fingleton away on his way again down the left wing. With a defender matching him stride for stride, Niall managed to get past him and whipped the ball across the box from the bye line. Substitute Brandon Turnbull nipped in between defender and keeper and kicked Brandon in front for a third time in the game.
Washington only had one real chance in extra time and it should have been another equaliser but one of their substitutes chose to shoot -and wide - when there was an unmarked teammate standing alone and just five yards out!
Towards the end of the game Washington were reduced to ten men following a crude, studs showing, knee height tackle on Joe Joyce giving the ref no option but to show a straight red.
Niall Fingleton had a very late chance to give the score line the ‘gloss’ our play deserved, but he pulled his shot (very) wide with only the keeper to beat and only six yards out. But given the amount of running he had done over the game I think we can forgive his this tired shot.
We managed to see the rest of the game out without any undue fuss and recorded our first win of the season - a win that was very well deserved and now sees us into the FA Vase 1st round proper for the first time in over fifteen years.