NON-LEAGUE FOOTBALL: The woodwork prevents an FA Trophy shock as St Ives Town and Soham Town Rangers do battle
- Credit: Archant
All the required ingredients from the footballing recipe book were in place for an FA Trophy shock yesterday.
Struggling and injury-riddled higher-level hosts St Ives Town faced in-form and full-of-confidence lower-level opponents Soham Town Rangers in the sort of weather conditions that even had ducks heading indoors.
But, fortunately for the former and frustratingly for the latter, the woodwork was also in place to ensure this first qualifying round tie ended goalless.
Despite the blank 0-0 scoreline, those who did brave the elements were rewarded with plenty of entertainment with the once-maligned Westwood Road pitch again proving it is now a terrific surface.
The Southern League Premier Division Central club's goal-frames are also in fine working order as demonstrated by Rangers three times - with varying amounts of intent - hitting either post or crossbar.
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Callum Russell's cross from the left in the first half, Toby Andrews' terrific strike from the edge of the box midway through the second half and substitute Tom Newman's deflected strike with what proved to be the final kick of the game all came agonisingly close to earning a notable triumph for Isthmian League North Division outfit Rangers who instead had to settle for another crack at Saints in a Tuesday replay.
Soham were close to a spectacular early breakthrough as impressive midfielder Ryan Auger sent a ferocious half-volley from 25 yards whistling just over the bar.
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Saints responded with a Tom Wood shot that forced Rangers keeper Josh Pope into a save before the visiting number one watched Ben Seymour-Shove drag his effort just wide after smart work from Matt Foy.
Rangers frontman Sam Mulready then had more time and space than he appeared to realise when shooting wide for Soham after a poor clearance from Saints keeper Fin Iron deflected into his path.
There was another big let-off for the home side when a Russell delivery from the left bounced up against the bar and Iron was called upon just before the break to kick away an Ally Conway header from an Auger corner.
Saints' best spell came early in the second half when they twice went close to a breakthrough.
Debutant James Peters - back for a second spell with the club - tested Pope with a blast from the edge of the box before Rangers man Conway scrambled the ball off the line after Danny Kelly won a header from an Aaron Phillips cross.
But the momentum then swung back the way of Soham with Andrews curling a terrific effort against the bar before Mulready had strong penalty appeals ignored by referee Ben Cooke after a challenge by Saints defender Jarvis Wilson inside the area.
Mulready then found the net with a header but the Soham celebrations were quickly cut short by a raised flag and there was more frustration in the final attack of the match as a deflected Newman shot thudded back off the woodwork.
The two sides now do battle against at Julius Martin Lane on Tuesday, 7.45pm, for a place in the second qualifying round of the national competition.