Cup heartache in Groundhog Day for Town

Alnwick Town FC news and match reports.
Alnwick Town FC news and match reports.

Alnwick Town suffered a devastating extra-time defeat in the second round proper of the FA Vase today – almost an exact repeat of their cup clash four days ago.

On Tuesday night, the black ‘n’ whites scored a late fourth goal to level the scores to take it into an added 30 minutes at Whitley Bay in the Northumberland Senior Cup quarter-finals, before losing 6-4.

Hosting St Helens at St James’ Park this afternoon, it also finished four apiece after the 90 before the visitors eventually won 5-4.

Brad McClelland and Tony Brown scored two apiece and, but for some poor goalkeeping and defending around the box, it could have been a different story, despite Town last being at this stage of the competition oin 1975/76.

The North-West side, who play in the in the North West Premier League, similar to the Ebac Northern League, Division One – one tier above Alnwick – struck first when a free-kick wasn’t dealt with properly and the ball was stabbed home.

Not long after though, Town were level when McClelland rounded the keeper and slotted home. The visitors hit back and gave themselves a two-goal cushion as first a cross wasn’t cleared and the striker fired home and then keeper Sean Straker punched unconvincingly and a shot from the edge of the area was turned in.

The home side gave themselves a chance just before the interval when McClelland got his second of the afternoon as he headed home from a corner.

The half-time talk in the Alnwick changing room must have been a real wake-up call because Alnwick came out and really ramped up the pressure on St Helen’s, coming close on several occasions. The visitors certainly owe a lot of gratitude to their keeper who tipped a number of efforts behind.

But eventually the defence was breached when Adam Shanks lifted the ball over for Tony Brown to chest down and knock past the keeper. Unfortunately, Town’s effort was all for naught as they let St Helens go down the other end and take the lead once more.

In the final 20 minutes, there were chances at either end as a St Helens free-kick slammed off the crossbar before a Keith Douglas free-kick was tipped just wide.

And Alnwick grabbed their lifeline from another Douglas free-kick, which was so well struck, low and hard, that the keeper could only parry before Brown smashed the rebound gleefully home.

Hearts were in mouths for the home fans before the end as a penalty for the visitors was overturned due to an offside decision and then a rasping shot hit the outside of the post.

But once again, the effort of taking it to extra-time took its toll as in the second period, following a cagey and end-to-end first 15 minutes, a spilled ball from Straker saw the St Helens striker have the easiest of finishes from a few yards to put his side into the third round.