Whitley Bay 1-1 West (1-4 pens) – West Didsbury & Chorlton AFC

Whitley Bay 1-1 West (1-4 pens)

Report by Matthew Durrant.

Saturday 3rd December, FA Vase Third Round Proper

Whitley Bay 1 (Brewis 43)
West 1
(Miller 89)
West win 4-1 on penalties
Att: 440

Let’s dispense with any suspense here, as any retelling of the events will be unable to fully convey the angst and joy felt by the sizeable travelling West support felt on the rare visit to the north-east coast. In short, Chris Rowley’s side drew level in the dying moments, before winning a second FA Vase shoot-out in a row 4-1. The longer form version of events: well, let’s try.

The part that may be missed out when those were there recount this story in the coming years is that there were vast swathes of this game that were boring, turgid, and uninspiring, even to viewers with an interest in the result. The high points of the first half from a footballing point of view came within the first 120 seconds: Whitley Bay pulled a smart save out of Andrew Jones, before a counter saw McKnight with plenty of options available. In Curtis Miller, he perhaps picked the best option, but the number 7 was unable to find the net: all three West players mentioned would have their part to play in the game’s denouement around 2 hours later.

From that fast start came only dribs, drabs, and, – eventually – West being undone by a relatively straightforward effort. A cross from deep, nodded back across the goal, and hit goalwards with too much effort for Jones who could only palm into the net. Whitley had perhaps had less of the play on what was a difficult surface, but they went into the break with the lead.

The second half followed a similar pattern, with neither side able to impose themselves on the game. The following support – in fine voice throughout – implored West to try find something, anything.

With 89 minutes on the clock, with those requests from the sidelines becoming increasingly forlorn, it looked as though the game was up. Whitley Bay, winning a throw in deep into opposition territory, spotted a man unmarked at the far post: he shook off one man before facing down Jones and – with the next round in his grasp – found only the post.

Less than a minute later, the away support had the moment they’d been singing for. Perhaps roused by the rattle of the woodwork, West found a way through in a way remarkably similar to their hosts – even if it has a lot more luck involved. A ball from the right, crossed to the far post, dropping back to Curtis Miller. A first time strike first hit a defender ricocheting onto the post, and trickling across the length of the goal before – yes! – being greeted by the roar of the crowd as parity was restored.

Both side attempted to push the matter before the full time whistle was blown, with the 6 minutes added time perhaps having more football played than the previous 90, but neither were able to break the newfound deadlock before the game went straight to a penalty competition.

With West fans packed behind the goalmouth, captain Matty Cooke and Curtis Miller stepped up to tuck it away, before former West player Ben Richardson was the unlucky man to miss the first penalty – hitting high over the bar. Liam Delaney – a second half sub for Rhian Davis – slotted home too, before Jones performed his now standard shootout heroics in saving a low effort to his left.

Darren McKnight stepped up knowing a goal would send his team through, though his confidence in placing the ball down didn’t give an ounce of that away. Regardless, him and the rest of the West squad would soon find themselves serenaded by ecstatic fans who, minutes earlier, had been looking down the barrel of a 4 hour post-mortem on the return journey to South Manchester. Instead, the coach home was spent dreaming of the fourth round and what may lie ahead – and retelling the story of the game, without ever capturing the magic of what has just unfolded.

West: A. Jones, Cook, Hancock, McKnight, Hampson, Foulds, Miller, Dickinson, Elliott, Davis, Eme. Subs from: Vayro, Delaney, Matthews, Westall, Swift, C. Jones.

Eckersley’s Plumbers & Locksmiths Player of the Match: Andrew Jones.