Morpeth closing in on Wembley appearance

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Morpeth Town are one round away from a trip to London’s Wembley Stadium after overcoming Bristol Manor Farm 2-0 at Craik Park in their FA Vase quarter-final on Saturday afternoon.

There were 718 spectators in attendance to see the Highwaymen’s biggest win in their 132-year history, as goals from Chris Swailes and substitute Dale Pearson secured a semi-final berth for Nick Gray’s team.

Town will travel to Bowers and Pitsea on Saturday, March 12, for the first leg of their semi-final before hosting their Essex opponents on the 19th.

Morpeth manager Gray was full of praise for his side, saying: “They were fantastic.

“I’m delighted for everyone at the club, from the people working on the pitch to the people behind the bar, to the players, committee, chairmen — I’m delighted for everybody. You’re in football for days like today.”

Morpeth came out of the gates strongly, and had a number of chances in the first half to kill the game off, and Gray agreed that the first goal was crucial:

“I think the first goal was key. It showed in the end. They came at us the second half, but at least we had the lead, but you know the first goal is always crucial in these types of games,” said the former Bedlington Terriers player.

Gray had particular praise for the central defence pairing of Michael Hall and Swailes, the latter opening the scoring on 13 minutes.

“The bionic man?” Gray said, quoting an FA article about the two-time vase winner. “ I played with Chris. He’s the same age as me.

“I play a kickabout sometimes for 90 minutes, and I cannot walk for three days, so god knows what he’s going to be like this week.

“Special mention to him and Michael Hall, who were great. The central defence was fantastic, outstanding even.”

Gray also praised the second-half performance put in by the visitors.

“It felt like an hour,” he said. “I thought my watch had broken. It was a long time, but it’s better than being in the other dugout when you are behind.

“We dug in and showed a bit of character.”

Striker Pearson said he was “absolutely buzzing” after netting a 94th minute tap-in to secure a place in the last four.

“I thought I was offside, to be honest, but I’m not going to say anything more on that,” he said. “I saw Ben Sayer looking to shoot first time, so I pulled back to the edge of the six-yard box hoping to pick up the rebound, then I saw him shoot a second time and the ball fell to me and bang, 2-0 and into the semi-final.” The Farm, at that point, were in the ascendancy, but Pearson always believed there would be a chance for Morpeth to seal the victory:

“I thought there would be one more chance as they were throwing bodies forward,” he said. “I thought I’d stay up top to see if we’d get a chance and we did.

Pearson also commended the Town defence for keeping a clean sheet.

“We defended absolutely brilliantly. Karl is a top keeper, and the defenders were excellent,” he said.