NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: Godmanchester Rovers knocked out of the FA Vase after being hit by a stoppage-time sucker punch
PUBLISHED: 15:02 13 November 2017
It wasn’t just a game of two halves at the David Wilson Homes Ground last Saturday afternoon as Godmanchester Rovers crashed out of the FA Vase.
It was also a performance of two halves from a team of two halves as their involvement in the national competition came to an end at the second round stage.
A 4-3 defeat at the hands of fellow Step 5 side Deeping Rangers would certainly have been considered an unlikely outcome at half-distance.
Rovers were good value for a 3-1 advantage at the break after coming from behind to take command with a display full of midfield intensity and attacking quality.
But it was a completely different story after the interval as their most dangerous weapons found themselves on the fringes of a game which became increasingly scrappy and Rovers’ defending failed to stand the test.
The frailties of Ollie Drake’s side were first exposed in the ninth minute when Deeping defender Jonny Clay was allowed to rise to head home from a corner, but the first glimpse of their attacking prowess followed seconds later as Jack Chandler collected a Ben Yeomans pass and guided a smart finish past the visitors’ debutant goalkeeper James Connell.
Rovers continued to be seen in a good light as they put a Rangers side, who are in the thick of the United Counties League Premier Division title race, under almost constant pressure.
The turnaround was completed in the 19th minute when Matty Allan burst inside from the left flank and unleashed a low shot that took a deflection, which wrong-footed Connell, before nestling in the back of the net.
A fine save from Rovers goalkeeper Phil Peachey denied Scott Mooney a leveller before the hosts extended their advantage when Simon Unwin got the final touch to a Yeomans shot in a scramble.
But, as capable as they are around the opposing box, Rovers have plenty of difficulty when protecting that of their own. And it was that issue which led to a potentially super success turning into a hugely agonising defeat.
The alarm bells rang only five minutes into the second half when Clay was needlessly shoved as a dead-ball was launched into the area. Scott Coupland did the honours from the penalty spot to halve Deeping’s deficit despite Peachey guessing the right way.
Chances were at a premium as a game which had often been free-flowing in the first half turned into a war of attrition. Given the soft underfoot conditions, that was perhaps no surprise.
It was a scenario which appeared to suit a Deeping side whose chosen method of attacking certainly had no frills. It also exposed a worrying chink in the hosts’ armour.
Another long free-kick into the box - this time delivered by Clay - allowed his central defensive partner Luke Hunnings to head in a looping equaliser with a quarter of an hour to go.
Extra-time looked the likeliest outcome at the stage. That was still the case entering stoppage time, but Deeping had other ideas as Clay thumped the ball forward into the path of Mooney, who hooked a high-class finish over Peachey.
What could quite rightly be considered as a remarkable comeback from Rangers’ perspective should probably be classed as tossing away a terrific chance to reach the third round as far as Rovers are concerned.
It was an outcome which left their players and supporters alike shell-shocked.