Washington stars as St Ives make Vase history

GRESLEY manager Gary Norton described St Ives Town striker Conor Washington as ‘mustard’ after his side had been dumped out of the FA Vase at Westwood Road on Saturday.

St Ives’ hot-prospect Washington was the star of the show as the United Counties Premier Division beat their Midland Alliance League opponents 4-0 to secure a place in the quarter finals of the competition for the first time in the club’s history.

The 19-year-old scored twice with captain Lee Ellison and late substitute Scott Fielding getting the other two goals.

In front of a crowd of 541, St Ives were already 2-0 up midway through the first half when Gresley went down to 10 men after Danny Holmes was sent off for swearing at one of the referee’s assistants. In the second half the visitors went down to nine men, but it was 4-0 by the time James Jepson was given his marching orders following a foul on Washington.

“If they didn’t know about Conor before – they do now,” said joint manager Jez Hall.

Norton said: “We’d done our homework on him and we knew he was a great player with pace and good movement. But he was mustard!”

The Gresley manager continued: “Washington uses his body fantastically well for a small guy and he caused us problems all afternoon – but they also had a number of other players who did the same.”

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Gresley had come to Westwood Road after beating the fancied Three Bridges in a penalty shoot out following a replay in Crawley in the previous round. They left Westwood Road with their tails between their legs having been given a footballing lesson.

However, having got to the last 16 of the Vase three times in the last four years – but no further – St Ives are now in unchartered territory. The club will face north Derbyshire side Staveley Miners Welfare in the quarter finals on Saturday, March 3. If they win that game, they will be just one more win from the Wembley final.

“We do seriously think that we can do it this season,” said Hall. “Before we have always been really happy to get to the fourth or fifth round but this time we actually feel like we are good enough to go all the way.

“We have a good squad here. It’s looking really healthy. Barring our poor start to the season we would have been up there in the league as well.

“We have been waiting to get to the quarter finals for a long time so this is brilliant.”

GRESLEY had an offside goal ruled out early on, but St Ives were dangerous from the off with Washington superb up front alongside his more experienced strike partner Junior McDougald.

The visiting defence gave Washington far too much time and space to hold the ball up and even backed off when he ran at them. One of the striker’s early shots went wide and another was cleared off the line before he cut in from the left and found Lee Ellison who should have done better than send his chance wide of the left hand post.

It was only a matter of time before St Ives scored and it was Ellison who made up for his earlier miss when he jumped highest in the box to meet a wonderful cross from left back Jamie Alsop.

Minutes later it was 2-0 after Washington had rushed on to a through ball, dummied the Gresley goalkeeper Gary Hateley, and rolled the ball home.

It was as the Saints were about to take a corner that Holmes was sent off, but after that the visitors rallied and tested Niall Conroy-Owen in the St Ives goal.

Following the break Ozie Foster saw a shot come back off the right-hand post before Washington made it 3-0 with possibly the scrappiest goal he has ever scored.

The striker’s first shot had been stopped by the Gresley goalkeeper. Washington had another go and ended up rolling around in the mud with Hateley, a Gresley defender and McDougald. Finally, it was Washington who managed to force the ball over the line. They all count.

Washington was fouled shortly after that when shaping up to shoot again and the referee showed his red card immediately.

After Hall and his co-manager Warren Everdell had subbed Washington with 10 minutes to go, Fielding tapped in a Grant Robbins cross to make it 4-0.

Norton said afterwards: “We haven’t become a bad side overnight but that was a damaging defeat.

“We just didn’t turn up and we were second best all day and then one of our most experienced players gets himself sent off and it just went from bad to worse.”

Hall said: “For the first half an hour we controlled the game, then got on top and scored two really good goals.

“There were other chances for us and we limited them to next to nothing.

“When their first player was sent off we took our foot off the gas a little because we thought ‘job done’ - but Warren and I shook them up at half time and told them it wasn’t job done at all and they came out and did the business.

“I think, if anything, Gresley got away with a 4-0 – we could well have scored a lot more goals today.”

There will be little time to celebrate the win however, their quarter final game away at Staveley is just a week and a bit away now.

Their opponents, the Northern Counties East League side Staveley, beat Leicestershire East Midlands Counties side Oadby Town 2-0 in their last-16 game last Wednesday.

Elsewhere, on Saturday, Peterborough Northern Star also won a place in the quarter finals when they beat Tividale 2-0 after extra time in the West Midlands. PNS will be at home to Dunston UTS.

The current holders, Whitley Bay, who also won the Vase in 2010, were surprisingly beaten 2-1 at home by West Auckland Town.

FA Vase fifth round results: Tividale 0-2 Peterborough Northern Star, Shortwood United 3-0 Ashington, Billingham Synthonia 0-0 Bournemouth, Dunston UTS 3-0 Bethnal Green United, Whitley Bay 1-2 West Auckland Town, St Ives Town 4-0 Gresley, Herne Bay 1-0 Larkhall Athletic, Staveley Miners Welfare 2-0 Oadby Town.

Quarter final (Saturday, March 3): Shortwood United v Herne Bay, Staveley Miners Welfare v St Ives Town, Peterborough Northern Star v Dunstan UTS, Billingham Synthonia or Bournemouth v West Auckland Town.