Godmanchester Rovers created a slice of club history yesterday . . . by reaching the last 16 of the FA Vase for the first time.
Ollie Drake’s men made further progress in the national competition thanks to a 1-0 success against Midlands opponents Sporting Khalsa at the David Wilson Homes Ground.
While captain Micky Hyem was the man to claim the only goal, it was a terrific team effort that allowed Rovers to advance and pocket £1,875 in prize money. Their running total in the Vase this term now stands at £4,725.
In all truth Hyem could hardly miss when tucking away a fine low cross from Charlie Bowen to provide the breakthrough in the 59 th minute which prompted wild celebrations from the majority of a 252 attendance.
It was a strike which arrived during Rovers’ best spell of a match in which they were often the better side, and moments after Tom Spark fluffed a similarly inviting chance. But that one Hyem effort proved to enough to earn a victory which was actually more emphatic than the final scoreline might suggest for the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division table-toppers.
Sporting Khalsa, who sit sixth in the Midland League Premier Division, were the livelier team in the early exchanges with midfield talent Liam Armstrong – a high-class performer for this level of football – involved frequently.
But it was Rovers who created the clearest chances with Hyem unable to get a telling header onto a Jack Chandler delivery before seeing a shot blocked by Khalsa keeper Sam Arnold.
The visiting number one then produced a spectacular save to tip a trademark Joe Furness free-kick onto the bar before using every inch of his frame to grab a Chris Hyem lob after Rovers stole possession in a threatening position.
Moments of alarm were rare at the other end during the opening half. Keeper Niall Conroy made one routine save at his near post from a header before Reece King was perfectly placed to cut out a low cross with an unmarked attacker waiting to apply the finishing touch yards away.
Chandler also attempted an early lob, which drifted just wide, as Rovers resumed on the front foot in the second half.
Austen Diaper, who played superbly less than 24 hours after the death of his grandmother, then delivered the low cross which Spark should have put away before he swiped the subsequent loose ball wide.
Only a fantastic recovery tackle then denied Diaper as he sprung the vulnerable Khalsa offside trap, but a breakthrough seemed to be a certainty and duly arrived moments later.
Central defender Bowen displayed control and crossing ability that any winger would be proud to call their own and captain Hyem remained cool, calm and collected to fire home.
A rousing response was anticipated from Sporting Khalsa who have proven pedigree in this competition after reaching the quarter-finals last season, but it never really materialised.
They did enjoy more possession in the final half-an-hour without creating a clear chance. One fiercely-hit shot from 20 yards was well blocked in a packed penalty area before Conroy clutched a header that looked for a split-second like it may creep inside the post.
In fact Rovers came closest to scoring again when Diaper steered a cut-back from substitute Arran Mackay into the side-netting from a tight angle before Mackay himself, back in Rovers colours following a three-month absence, saw a last-gasp shot deflected wide.
But seconds later their passage was secured and they left the pitch to a deserved standing ovation.