Injury-time winner so cruel on Blues
Jonathan Redhead Lowestoft Town 1, Kirkham & Wesham 2: It was a dream for Lowestoft Town to reach Wembley Stadium, a dream to play in the FA Vase final, but it all ended in the most painful way possible – last-minute heartbreak.
Lowestoft Town 1, Kirkham & Wesham 2
It was a dream for Lowestoft Town to reach Wembley Stadium, a dream to play in the FA Vase final, but it all ended in the most painful way possible - last-minute heartbreak.
They were given the perfect start. A gift of an own goal from Kirkham defender Phil Thompson after only 10 minutes gave Lowestoft a lead they held, by both luck and judgement, for 74 minutes until Kirkham & Wesham manager Mike Fuller pulled out a match-changing substitution.
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The 79th minute saw Fuller introduce striker Matt Walwyn and, within 11 minutes plus stoppage time, the substitute had turned the game on its head and sent the Lowestoft players to their knees in defeat.
The scorching temperature and buzzing atmosphere from nearly 15,000 Lowestoft Town fans produced a memorable occasion for everyone - and the match itself produced a contest that swung from end to end. Both sides gave everything they had.
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But in the end, a couple of astute changes from the Lancashire side and a little bit of extra fitness did for Lowestoft, leaving tears of disappointment that it was not quite to be their year.
It had all started so well for Town and, arguably as the game progressed, it seemed as though the Trawler Boys' name was written on the Vase.
Both sides had a full squad to choose from and Lowestoft made the early running, with Kirkham failing to clear Neil Plaskett's long throw and striker Russell Stock seeing his effort from 10 yards charged down, before Ross King's follow-up was comfortably saved by Peter Summerfield in the Kirkham goal.
And just when Kirkham thought they were getting a foothold in the game, they gifted Lowestoft a dream start when Matty Potter's innocuous cross from the left was inexplicably headed over his own keeper by defender Phil Thompson on 10 minutes, under pressure from Stock.
On such a big occasion, it was simply a present for Town.
Kirkham were trying to press and earned a couple of corners, but Town were playing the better football and using the wide Wembley expanses to their advantage, with Bradley Hough seeing plenty of the ball on the right.
On 30 minutes, Town cashed in their first lucky token. Kirkham striker Sean Paterson found the ball at his feet 15 yards from goal and his right-foot strike hit Town keeper Andy Reynolds' near post, before canning back off the keeper's hand on to the bar and, finally, safely into his arms.
Minutes later, Darren Cockrill sloppily gave the ball away in midfield and as Paterson squared the ball across goal, Town right-back Carl Poppy pulled off a goal-saving block to deny Mark Wane.
Town had their chances too. Stock failed to get a shot away after a lovely through ball from Jamie Godbold, while Godbold and substitute Dale Cockrill tried their luck from long range in the second half.
Kirkham were having more than their share of possession, but Lowestoft were creating the better openings and Hough broke through on 72 minutes, after a neat one-two with Richard Woodrow, before drilling the ball narrowly over the bar.
Barely seconds later, Town cashed in their second and final voucher of luck although it also owed a lot to some incredible defending.
First, Reynolds' completely misjudged a deep Kirkham cross and, with the goal at Paterson's mercy, Saunders and Plaskett pulled out the mother of all last ditch blocks before Poppy charged 15 yards to clear Clark's effort which had goal written all over it.
The Lowestoft defence was putting in the type of performance that had served them so well in the previous rounds, with captain Marcus Saunders winning everything in the air for 90 minutes.
But when Plaskett succumbed to cramp with 10 minutes to go, it forced Chapman and Gallagher into a change in formation and Kirkham took full advantage.
Paterson found himself free on the left and crossed the ball in for substitute Walwyn, who had been on the pitch for only five minutes. His first touch of the match brought the ball under control and he held off the attentions of Dale Cockrill, before using his second touch to bury the ball past Reynolds and give Kirkham the equaliser their second half possession deserved.
And with the game seemingly destined to drift to extra time as both sides huffed, puffed and tired, Paterson broke through Town's static defence and, as everyone waited for the linesman to raise his flag for offside, it never came.
It left the Kirkham striker with a free run at Reynolds' goal and he took his time before squaring the ball to Walwyn, who tapped in for his second to send the Town players to the floor in despair.
Town still had one last chance, Potter heading tamely wide from Godbold's left-wing cross. But by that time, Town had given everything they had and in the end it was not quite enough.
For what seemed to be the first time during this season's FA Vase run, it was not to be.
t KEY MOMENTS:
1: Kirkham & Wesham kick-off towards the massed ranks of Lowestoft Town fans filling the west end of the stadium.
3: First foul of the game as Neil Plaskett is brought in his own half. From the free-kick, Town win a corner, but Ross King's flag kick is easily cleeared by the K&W back line.
4: Russell Stock causes concern in the K&W back four chasing a long ball, but Dougie Shaw eventually manages to head back to his 'keeper Peter Summerfield. However, Town, all in blue have made the better start.
5: From Plaskett's long throw, Stock has a shot blocked, but the ball falls to King on the edge of the box. He turns and fires in a left-footed effort, which is saved to his left by a diving Summerfield.
8: K&W finally manage to get their foot on the ball. From Allan Jackson's right-wing cross, they win their first corner. Darren Cockrill repels the initial cross with a fine header, but Mike Clark feeds the ball back in and Lowestoft scramble away.
10: GOAL! Lowestoft Town take the lead with a bizarre own goal Matty Potter crosses from the left and as Stock challenges Phil Thompson inexplicably heads the ball past his own keeper and into the top corner. 1-0
12: The Trawler Boys keep the pressure on and from Jamie Godbold's fine turn and low cross, Bradley Hough is denied on the edge of the six yard box by a fine sliding challenge from Jackson.
14: K&W press for an equaliser but Ged Smith is lucky to escape a booking for a late challenge on Plaskett.
16: Thompson partially redeems himself with a fine headed clearance as Richard Woodrow looks to break into the K&W box following a Stock flick.
17: Smith is deservedly booked after another late challenge, this time on Hough.
18: Jackson's long throw for K&W but falls to Paul Eastwood on the edge of the Blues box. But he can only steer his first time header a long way wide.
19: K&W look dangerous on the break as they start to get into the game. Leading goalscorer Sean Patterson spins out to the right on but his cross is easily gathered by Andy Reynolds with no-one in the box for the north west side. But the pressure is starting to build.
22: Hough makes a great run from the right win beating two K&W defenders. He gets to the edge of the box, but decides not to shoot with his left foot and the loses possession and the chance is gone.
24: Cockrill dallies on the ball in the centre of the park and as the ball is clipped over Town's back line, Reynolds is quickly off his line and manages to collect the ball before Patterson. Meanwhile, Godbold changes his boots at the side of the pitch.
26: Town break out again with a flowing move involving Woodrow, Stock and Godbold, but the latter's final pass for Hough is just too heavy and the ball goes out of play for a throw.
27: Town skipper Marcus Saunders fouls Phil Blakcweel in the left-back area to concede a dangerous free-kick. Smith whips the ball in left-footed and no-one gets a touch and the Reynolds claims the ball on the bounce on his goal line.
29: K&W fans, but not players, appeal for a penalty after Patterson tumbles in the box following a Saunders tackle.
30: K&W are inches away from an equaliser. Patterson controls a bouncing ball in the box and beat Saunders. He cracks a volley towards goal and it cannons off the post, hits Reynolds on the shoulder before rebounding onto the crossbar and away before Reynolds gratefully picks the ball up. A warning for Town who are being pushed further and further back.
35: Hough brings down Mark Wane mid-way into the Lowestoft half. Smith lines up the free-kick but drives it straight into the wall from 35 yards out.
36: Referee D'Urso books Eastwood for a late challenge on King as he breaks away, despite the K&W man's protestations. The ref then allows all 22 players a brief drinks break with the ball out of play. A sensible descision in the sweltering heat which is already causing one or two players to suffer.
38: Plaskett blocks a driven effort from Smith on the edge of his own box.
40: Carl Poppy makes a miraculous goal-saving block on virtually his own line as Eastwood was on hand to tap the ball home. The chance came from K&W's best move of the game and Patterson's low cross along the six-yard line.
42: King crosses low for the marauding Cockrill but Shaw is on hand to clear a rare town attack.
43: Shaw makes a fantastic last ditch tackle to stop Stock getting on the end of a Godbold through-ball.
45: Patterson executes a neat spin but his through-ball for Jackson is just too strong and the ball goes out for a goal-kick.
45: Godbold's cross is just too strong for King as Town try to close out the half at the K&W end of the pitch.
t Half-time: Town head for the dressing-room with the resounding cheers from their fans and a 1-0 lead. They probably deserve the lead after starting the better side, however, K&W came into the game as the half progressed and Patterson was unlucky not to equalise. A thrilling first 45 minutes, with the FA Vase still up for grabs.
Lowestoft Town came out for the second half having made one substitution. Darren Cockrill came off to be replaced by his brother Dale. It is a straight swap with Cockrill going into a position in front of the Blues back four.
46: Godbold has the first half chance of the second period, but is unable to get his shot away after a twisting run into the area.
49: Town win the first corner of the half after a great run from Hough. K&W keeper punches King's corner away under pressure from Saunders. The ball falls to Plaskett on the edge of the box and his lob drifts wide.
51: First scare for the Blues as Smith finds himself in space on the left edge of the box. But instead of crossing, he elects to shoot and drills the ball well wide with his left foot.
53: Smith causes more trouble down the left but Reynolds catches his cross on the stretch.
54: Each side makes a substitution. Reece Hunn comes on for King on the Town left. For K&W, Tony Keefe is replaced by Ritchie Allen.
56: Godbold, who is growing increasingly influential, fires a 25 yard effort just wide of the K&W goal.
58: Cockrill tries his luck from 25 yards, but his left-footed strike flies wide.
59: Smith, who has been booked, fouls Poppy. Ref D'Urso gives him a final warning.
60: Stock flicks the ball through for Godbold breaking from midfield. He beats the offside trap and fires in a shot from a tight angle. Summerfield saves and the ball is cleared.
62: Woodrow becomes the first Blues player to enter the referee's notebook with a late challenge on Jackson after losing the ball.
63: Poppy and Potter make vital interceptions as K&W attack with centre-back Plaskett lying prone with cramp. The ball eventually goes out of play and he receives treatment from physio Ali Kent while the players take another drinks break. Plaskett is fit enough to continue.
68: Strains of 'Blue Army' echo from the Lowestoft end as Saunders makes an excellent challenge to stop Patterson breaking clean through. K&W are starting to get on top as the game enters a bit of a lull. Just what Lowestoft need.
72: Hough almost makes the game safe for Town. He latches onto Woodrow's pass and runs half the length of the pitch. He beats the last man, but from an angle, fires his shot over from 18 yards.
73: The mother of all goalmouth scrambles at the Lowestoft end. Reynolds fails to claim a cross and Plaskett and Saunders clear off the line from Patterson. The ball then falls to Clark and Poppy somehow clears off the line when it seemed odds on to be a goal from a couple of yards out. The ball then falls to Wane and Reynolds redeems himself with a fine sprawling block as Town breathe again.
74: Relief for the Blues turns into a chance at the other end as Stock turns well and fires a low cross across the six yard box. It's cleared for a corner which comes to nothing after a foul on the keeper.
The tension is building to fever pitch levels as the game enters the final 15 minutes. The next goal will prove decisive.
78: Lowestoft managers Micky Chapman and Ady Gallagher make their final change as Plaskett cannot continue and is replaced by Gary McGee. K&W make their second change as Jackson is replaced by Matt Walwyn, who scored the winning goal in the semi-final second leg win over Needham Market. He goes straight up front as K&W try to save the game.
80: McGee is instantly involved and tries a 25-yard curler, which is easily saved by Summerfield.
82: K&W force a corner as Poppy fails to keep the ball in play. Thompson heads the ball towards goal but his looping header is easily saved above his head by Reynolds.
83: Lowestoft have another chance to win the game when Stock gets on the end of a McGee cross. But instead of heading for goal he tries to find Godbold and the chances goes begging.
84: GOAL! Lowestoft hearts are broken as K&W force an equaliser. Patterson breaks free down the K&W left and slips the ball to Walwyn. He holds off the despairing challenge of Potter and left-footed slots in at the near post past Reynolds from six yards. Game on.
The game is now end-to-end with both sets of players almost out on their feet. The Lowestoft fans turn up the volume in a desperate bid to get behind their team.
88: Dangerman Walwyn has another half chance but his weak shot is saved by Reynolds.
89: More danger for the Blues. Patterson's shot from Walwyn's cross is straight at Reynolds. Either side and it would have been the winning goal. K&W look like the only winners.
90: The fourth official indicates four minutes left to play. Fingers are down to the knuckles as Town hang on.
94: GOAL! Heartbreak for Lowestoft. Patterson breaks through the offside trap and is one on one with Reynolds. As the keeper comes out he squares the ball to Walywn who taps home his second.
95: Town fashion one more chance. From Hunn's cross, Potter is unmarked six yards out. But he can't direct his header towards goal, in what could be Town's last chance.
There's still time for K&W's last substitution as James Sheppard comes on for Patterson.
96: It's all over. Lowestoft's players sink to the turf as referee D'Urso blows the final whistle. Two goals in the final six minutes from super sub Matt Walwyn have robbed Town of the trophy. Man of the Match is Patterson as the heartbroken Blues players salute their fans who have given them a standing ovation. It will be a long trip back to Suffolk.
t Offical attendance is given as 19,537.
t Final score: Lowestoft Town 1, Kirkham & Wesham 2
t Lowestoft Town
Andy Reynolds, Carl Poppy, Matty Potty, Richard Woodrow, Marcus Saunders (c), Neil Plaskett, Jamie Godbold, Darren Cockrill, Russell Stock, Bradley Hough, Ross King.
Subs: Gary McGee, Dale Cockrill, Ali McKenna, Reece Hunn, Adam Rix (GK)
t Kirkham & Wesham
Peter Summerfield, Allan Jackson, Tony Keefe, Phil Thompson, Dougie Shaw (c), Paul Eastwood, Mike Clark, Phil Blackwell, Mark Wane, Sean Patterson, Ged Smith,
Subs: Jon Moffatt, Matt Walwyn, Ritchie Allen, James Sheppard, Joe Abbott (GK)
t Referee: Andy D'Urso