Wisbech Town 3,
Walsham Le Willows 0 (aet)
THE Fenmen made very hard work of winning this FA Vase tie over 120 minutes on an afternoon of frustration not only for manager Steve Appleby but the suffering fans at the Fenland Stadium too on Saturday.
On a blustery afternoon and on a dry pitch, the conditions were always going to be difficult and the only way forward was to get the ball down and play and really for almost 30 minutes of the first half Wisbech failed to do that.
Wisbech always looked the better team on the day with Walsham managing just one good effort on goal in the first 90 minutes and that came after just six minutes when giant defender Ben Soane had a free header from a corner but directed it just over the bar. That apart Ryan Rayner was almost a spectator for 90 minutes.
But towards the end of the first half Wisbech really dictated the game and Chris Bacon – what a capture for Wisbech he has been – could easily have grabbed a hat-trick as he had a shot blocked by the keeper’s legs and then saw two other good efforts just wide of the target. Sam Murphy headed over from close-in too.
But if the first half was poor then the next 45 minutes was a real bore as both sides struggled to string passes together.
After 63 minutes Appleby brought on Liam Nimmo and Steven Reid for Nick Davey and Paul Jones and then eight minutes later Ollie Gale replaced Sam Murphy.
Gale’s appearance gave a better balance to the team with him on the left and Callum Reed on the right and Nimmo was also effective.
But Wisbech still lacked that quality in the final third to unlock a Walsham defence hell bent on getting men behind the ball.
After 81 minutes there were appeals for a penalty when Bacon struck a Neal Spafford cross against the arm of a defender but the referee disagreed.
Bacon and Walsham’s Morton were fortunate to be only booked soon after a scuffle in the corner and Reed also went into the book for dissent soon after.
Many fans would have been relieved to have heard the final whistle but the prospect of another 30 minutes was hardly something to look forward too in the cold.
Ironically it was Walsham who started the better and created their best two chances of the game so far with first Ollie Hughes shooting wide with only Ryan Rayner to beat and then a minute later Charlie Robinson shot just wide, too.
It certainly woke the fans up and Wisbech almost took the lead a minute later when Bacon was denied with a goal-line clearance.
But then good work by Nimmo in the corner and a nice pass to Reed allowed the midfielder to volley home the first goal from 15 yards with a sweet strike after 103 minutes of football.
Five minutes into the second half of extra time Wisbech made the game safe when Bacon’s shot was deflected onto a post after a well worked move and Gale rammed home the rebound to make it 2-0.
The third goal soon followed with Reed’s corner from left finding Fairweather, who had earlier missed an easier chance, to head home at the far post.
Appleby said: “It was a frustrating game but I think we were always on top but just did not produce the quality we are capable of. In cup games it is not always about the performance but the result and we are through to the next round and I will accept that.
“They came hell bent on defending and the conditions made it a great leveller. I did wonder when we got to the last five minutes of the 90 minutes whether they would come and nick it but they never really threatened.
“We did have a couple of scares in extra time but once our first goal went in we were always going to win.”
Wisbech: Ryan Rayner, Jon Fairweather, Scott Johnson, Stacy Cartwright, Neal Spafford, Callum Reed, Sam Murphy, Lewis Thompson, Chris Bacon, Nick Davey, Paul Jones. Subs used: Liam Nimmo, Steven Reid, Ollie Gale. Attendance: 246.