Godbold proves key man once again
Michael Bailey Whitley Bay 2, Lowestoft Town 1: The circumstances may have been different, but for the second successive season, Jamie Godbold may have scored a crucial late goal for Lowestoft Town in the first leg of an FA Vase semi-final.
Whitley Bay 2, Lowestoft Town 1
The circumstances may have been different, but for the second successive season, Jamie Godbold may have scored a crucial late goal for Lowestoft Town in the first leg of an FA Vase semi-final.
With the venues reversed, 12 months ago the midfielder broke clear in injury time to nick Lowestoft's fourth at Crown Meadow against 10-man Whitley Bay.
The second leg at Hillheads saw Ian Chandler's side duly grab three goals in the first 20 minutes, before stumbling - and eventually failing - to find number four, as Town booked their big day out at Wembley.
This time round it was Whitley who needed to make home advantage count first. Revenge was the word on most people's lips as a freezing gale tore at the coastal ground - some even suggesting the home side would have the tie in the bag before travelling to Suffolk the following Saturday.
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Bay named nine of the 11 who started the teams' last battle, Lowestoft had seven of their own - all with that dramatic afternoon at Hillheads a year ago fresh in their minds.
But in stark contrast to Lowestoft's performance in the North East last season, which bore more resemblance to someone hanging off a 500ft cliff by their bare fingertips, this term's model started like the slick, win machine it has become, showing why a Vase, Ridgeons Premier Division and Suffolk Premier Cup treble is still very much alive with crisp passing and intelligent running that saw Whitley chasing shadows for almost the entire first half.
The only downside for the 400-odd Trawlerboys inside a packed Hillheads - 2,907 fans passed through the turnstiles - was a goalless first period as chances came and went.
The excellent Dale Cockrill was denied as home keeper Terry Burke raced off his line, while Carl Poppy's tremendously sweet free-kick from 30 yards cracked against an upright as Lowestoft dominated the opening exchanges. A goalless first 20 minutes seemed like a bonus - they were already 3-0 down at the same point last season - before Reece Hunn dragged wide.
The home side started to stir with Chris Moore's long-range strike forcing an excellent tip-over from Andy Reynolds - enjoying a pain-free afternoon compared to his three hip dislocations on the same ground last season. Godbold and Richard Woodrow both missed from reasonable distance, while Bay striker Lee Kerr should have scored with his head from no more than a couple of yards - the offside flag partially sparing his blushes.
Chandler's inspired double substitution 12 minutes after the break looked like it may deliver the kind of revenge Hillheads was baying for.
A new-look strike force brought with it fresh impetus - and left Town on the verge of having to climb their own second leg mountain at Crown Meadow.
The hour mark had barely passed when Lowestoft failed to clear a Whitley corner and substitute Adam Johnston - making his second home debut after re-signing from Durham City in midweek - drove across the penalty box, leaving striker Paul Chow's head to deflect home.
The game - and possibly tie - seemed to be slipping out of Lowestoft's hands when Jack Marsden brought down Chow as he bore down on goal with little more than 15 minutes left. Referee Karl Evans booked the full-back for his challenge, before Kerr calmly tucked away the spot-kick low to Reynolds' left.
And with the home crowd buzzing, Poppy's challenge with Johnston incensed home players, crowd and bench before Evans produced a straight red - much to the anger of the visitors, with Poppy set to serve a suspension for Saturday's rematch.
However, down to 10 men, Lowestoft's character shone through as, with 84 minutes on the clock, the ball fell to Godbold in the area and his supreme right- foot volley sailed gleefully across the goal and into the far top corner, to silence the home crowd.
It did not even matter that away goals will make no difference to the aggregate score - it meant just enough on its own. There was still time for some late Whitley pressure, with the home side convinced they should have had a second spot-kick as the ball bobbled up in the region of substitute Marcus Saunders hand/hip - depending on your allegiance.
In the end, Town were left holding on - much like last year. They are arguably favourites to win the semi-final tie after the first leg - much like last year. And all they need to book a second successive date at Wembley is another 90-minute Crown Meadow masterclass - where everyone will be hoping it is, indeed, just like last year.
Glossop North End produced a thrilling comeback to earn a 3-3 draw at Chalfont St Peter in the second FA Vase semi-final at Mill Meadow. The home side led through Charlie Strutten, John Carroll and Barry Brosnan, with Jay Gorton replying as Chalfont led 3-1 with 17 minutes remaining. But late goals from Dave Hodges and Rick Bailey ensured the momentum is with Glossop ahead of Saturday's second leg at Surrey Street.