Farnborough hit the end of the road in the FA Trophy

Having returned from Saturday’s long trip to North Devon with a creditable draw, despite having a number of players unavailable and indeed only being able to field one substitute, many felt this provided a good opportunity to progress to the next round where the winners were assured of a home tie against Aylesbury or Brentwood Town.

Certainly few would have envied the Robins having to make such a trip on a misty Monday evening.

When Boro’ got the game underway at 7:46pm visibility was far from perfect and while conditions obviously allowed play to start, one couldn’t help but wonder whether the home side might regret a number of missing floodlight bulbs should the mist thicken and cause Referee, Dean Appleby, to make another call.

The home defence looked stronger on paper than the one fielded at Bideford. Freddie Grant and the available again Keith Emmerson at wing back with Tom Broadbent and Gary MacDonald joining CJ Fearn in the centre of defence, several forwards with more than the odd appearance between them and the luxury of a full bench (except for a keeper), must surely have given Boro’ fans a few reasons to feel optimistic.

Boro’ were first to show when keeper, Kyle Moore blocked an effort from Tommy Wright before at the other end Freddie Grant blocked an effort from Barker.

Following some good approach work from Matt Bevans and Tommy Wright, Boro, won a corner on the left and Gary MacDonald came close to scoring from the resultant kick.

When Grant and Bevans combined well to feed the ball to Nicholas Brown, the winger’s cross was too long.

Boro’ continued to dominate play at this stage and Lewis Collins was only just wide of the post and into the side netting. Tommy Wright made space for a shot which was on target, but caused no problem for Moore.

Moore punched clear a left side corner and when the ball was returned into the area, Tom Broadbent was narrowly wide.

Two minutes later Broadbent again joined the attack and this time his header dropped tantalisingly over the bar onto the roof of the net.

Just before the half hour, Bogdan Vastsuk went down under a challenge on the edge of the box and to his credit he ran the full length of the pitch and challenged near Bideford’s goal line in an effort to retrieve the ball.

Suddenly, on thirty minutes, the mist disappeared and visibility became better than at any time since early morning.

Moore stopped a Broadbent free kick without much confidence, then a neat three man approach by Boro’ saw Nicholas Brown strike a sweet shot inside Moore’s left post on 32 minutes. Farnborough 1-0 Bideford.

Celebrations were to be short lived and when Bideford charged down field in a rare attack, MacDonald brought down Barker in the area and after a considerable delay, Matt Hockley blasted home the spot kick to bring the scores level again on 35 minutes. Farnborough 1-1 Bideford.

Mr Appleby also took his time in showing Fearn a Yellow card.

The remainder of the half plus added time – 2 minutes – was to say the least scrappy with Matt Andrew eventually being booked after having fouled Vastsuk several times.

Freddie Grant’s tackle near the touchline seemed to clearly take the ball, but he saw Yellow.

The half ended with Boro’ attacking strongly and being denied a reasonable shout for a penalty. With the visitor’s defence intent on clearing their lines, the ball appeared to find it’s way to safety via a defenders arm. Ball to arm or arm to ball – some they give some they don’t, but he did appear to raise his arm.

For me it was the way the Bideford fans in the main stand went strangely quiet that made up my mind.

HALF TIME: Farnborough 1-1 Bideford

A fairly even half which saw Boro’ enjoy a good deal of possession and create enough chances to have been a couple of goals clear.

The second half got underway at 8:48pm with Boro’ replacing Freddie Grant with Jack Barton.

Ten minutes in Bogdan Vastsuk hit a powerful shot which flew too high before he was shown a yellow card for a foul on Sampson.

Bideford had two close efforts when Angus Wilson saw his shot deflected out for a corner, which Matt Hockley reached but saw his shot fly over the bar.

When Emmerson hit a long free kick it resulted in Brown running into the box only for his shot to be blocked and then cleared.

Boro’ made a second change on 70 minutes, replacing Nicholas Brown with Ronaye Marsh-Brown

Bideford, made two changes in as many minutes with Billy Tucker replacing Angus Wilson on 73 minutes, then Matt Hockley made way for Jamie Chamberlain on 75 minutes.

Emmerson, who was looking more effective playing further forward on the left, squared for Vastsuk who was on target, but his shot lacked power and caused no real problem for Moore.

With ten minutes of the ninety remaining, there was a fracas around the edge of the Boro’ penalty area which saw several players from each side pushing and shoving and generally squaring up to each other.

I doubt if anyone could pin point the cause, but at least two Bideford players clearly raised their hands and at one stage one of them appeared to have a firm grip on CJ and made a good attempt at a premature shirt swap.

The outcome? Well Mr Appleby did a lot of strutting about but nothing else I can’t even remember how he restarted the game!!

In the ninetieth minute, Bideford charged upfield and looked as if they would snatch a luck winner, Joe Tupper made a good one handed diving save to his left only for a forward to close in again and strike from about 3 yards. Again, Joe stuck out his arm and somehow kept the ball out.

However, when your heart is in your mouth and you have trouble believing what you are seeing, it’s not difficult to miss minor matters like flags and whistles. Off-side had been given. Leaving such trivial matters aside, I still say the lad did well.

The Referee blew for the end of normal time on 93 minutes.

FULL TIME: Farnborough 1-1 Bideford

With Nigel having explained the format quite clearly, we now knew we were to face an extra period of 30 minutes, followed, should the scores remain tied, by everyone’s nightmare – a penalty shoot out.

The first period of extra time began with both sides taking care to minimise errors, defend what they had and try to score on the break.

Eight minutes in Boro’ made their final change with Bradley Fraser coming on for Bogdan Vastsuk on 98 minutes.

Within two minutes, Boro’ regained the lead when Lewis Collins gave Moore no chance with a fiercely hit shot across the keeper and just inside the far post on 100 minutes. Farnborough 2-1 Bideford.

The first period of extra time ended without further score.

When the second half of extra time began around 10:00pm, Boro’ should really have been able to see the game out especially knowing Bideford had just the one substitute left and that legs were tiring.

However, it took just 3 minutes for this notion to be dashed. A free kick down the left shouldn’t have posed a problem, but full back Stephen Reed was allowed to ghost in and equalise with a rather soft goal on 108 minutes. Farnborough 2-2 Bideford.

Twelve nervous minutes were to follow with both sides having further chances, but, one sensed with half an eye on penalties.

Joe Tupper made another great save when Downing met a corner with a powerful header, then Keith Emmerson came close to sealing it for Boro’ with a shot which was turned out for a corner.

Boro’s last chance came in the 119th minute when a Matt Bevans free kick found it’s way through to Moore without anyone being able to get a touch on it.

For the visitor’s a strange award of a free kick in mid field proved to be their last effort before the whistle signalled what I’m sure many of us had been resigned to for some time, PENALTIES!!!!

FULL TIME AET: Farnborough 2-2 Bideford

With all the formalities observed the shoot out commenced with Boro’ going first.

Bevans and Collins both scored as did Barker and Downing, 2-2.

Then came the slip, MacDonald was leaning back so much I’m surprised he managed to keep it under the PRE (at least he woke up a coupe of spectators in the back row).

Reed and Chamberlain for Bideford and Tommy Wright brought the score to 3-4.

CJ obliged with our final kick to level things at 4-4.

But Tucker wasn’t to be denied and duly popped home their fifth to give Bideford a narrow victory by the odd goal.

PENALTIES: Farnborough 4-5 Bideford

It’s easy to question the choice of our five penalty takers, but bearing in mind that Grant, Brown and Vastsuk had all been replaced, my only change would have been Emmerson instead of MacDonald.

Not through the benefit of hindsight, but simply because Gary MacDonald’s defensive style rarely calls for a controlled strike at ground level, whereas, Keith Emmerson was more likely to have succeeded (IMHO).

Neither was intending to knock MacDonald, who, for all we know, may well have volunteered to take one seeing the lack of alternatives.

No point in churning out the old clichés, we simply didn’t play well enough through 120 minutes. No-one could complain about the effort Tommy Wright puts into his game, the lad never stops chasing, but is it fair to expect him to win high balls down the middle against giant centre backs?

In fairness, he could and probably should have bagged four or five goals in the last few matches, but has often been left to fend for himself against big strong defenders. Many of the others have proved they can score good goals, Brown, Bevans, Fraser and CJ to name a few.

Sure we will miss the Cheltenham lads, but that’s life at this level. So what is missing? In our situation we can’t simply keep changing personnel in the hope that we will strike gold. We must structure our play to the strengths of the players we have and get them working for each other as they had started to a few games back.

Sure, if there is a chance to improve the squad, fine, but above all get them working for each other I have seen many less talented groups of players enjoy success merely by playing as a team.

Sadly, apart from the Ryman League Cup (Robert Dyas) and the Aldershot Senior Cup, we can now concentrate on the League without further distraction and strangely, this could work to our advantage.

Onwards to Saturday against Wingate & Finchley.

Apologies for allowing myself to stray over into personal opinions, but it is with the best of intentions. We need to stop some of the bickering and do the best we can with what we’ve got.

Match Report by Tony Duff.

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