FA Trophy Quarter-Final
CONCORD RANGERS 2 ROYSTON TOWN 1 (AET: 1-1 after 90 minutes)
JOHN CHUBB at the Aspect Arena
Concord Rangers are now potentially one stage from Wembley and the FA Trophy final after an epic tussle with Royston Town saw them come out on top in front of a bumper crowd on Tuesday night.
The first decent chances fell to the visiting Southern League Premier Central side in the 8th minute, when first a header was thwarted by the Concord defence and then midfielder Adam Watkins had a shot on target blocked.
Then with 12 minutes gone they came close again when Josh Castiglione received a flick-on from Matt Bateman but his shot, albeit a powerful one was wide of the left-hand post.
Concord’s first really decent chance came with 17 minutes on the clock.
The Beachboys won a free-kick just outside the area which Jack Cawley managed to bend round the Royston defence, but it sailed just wide to the right of Joe Welch’s goal.
And a couple of minutes later a beautifully executed move nearly saw Danny Scopes’s side in front.
Joel Nouble started it with a run and a cross which fell to Scott High, one of two players in the home side loaned to the club from Huddersfield Town by ex-Concord manager Danny Cowley, the other being Kit Elliott.
High who laid the ball on for James Blanchfield but his shot went just wide.
And Blanchfield was close to opening the home side’s account again within minutes, this time though his effort went over the bar.
Then in the 35th minute the home side broke the deadlock.
Elliott beat his marker and the ball fell to Nouble on the left, who fired past Welch to make it 1-0.
But not long afterwards Royston won a penalty when Adam Murray was brought to the floor by Aron Pollock.
Bateman stepped up to take the spot-kick but Haigh did brilliantly to stop it.
The Crows kept up their attacking play, trying to bring the scores level as half-time approached.
Blanchfield lost possession in midfield and Haigh saved from Bateman’s resulting low effort a couple of minutes after the same player had headed over the bar from a corner.
But the teams went in at the break with Concord still a goal to the good.
And it was the home team’s Taylor Maloney who had the first shot on goal a few minutes after the restart, evading a tackle in the process but his effort was safely gathered by ex-Chelmsford City keeper Welch.
But suddenly Royston were right back in it in the 54th minute.
Castiglione set up Luke Warner-Eley, and the full-back fired a powerful shot past Haigh to level the scores.
And the visitors very nearly took the lead in the 71st minute when Watkins forced an excellent stop from Haigh.
With the game into its final quarter Concord skipper David Olufemi went on a decent run and flicked the ball back to Nouble, who beat Royston right-back Gus Scott-Morriss but his shot was a tame one and gave Welch no trouble.
Then in the 90th minute Beachboys centre-half Billy Roast went for the winner with an overhead kick, but it sailed wide to the right of Welch’s goal.
Five minutes of time added on by referee Carl Brook failed to yield a deciding goal and so the game went into extra-time.
Concord manager Scopes made a change at this point, as Decarrey Sheriff came on to replace Elliott up front for the start of extra-time.
And within three minutes Sheriff had made his mark, slotting the ball past Welch with his first touch to put Rangers 2-1 ahead.
The remainder of extra-time was a somewhat scrappy affair as players began to tire, although the playing surface with its sand-covered patches had made things difficult for both sides all evening,
But in the second period, Royston’s Scott Bridges nearly levelled the scores before his goalbound effort was superbly tipped over by Haigh.
And in the dying seconds Crows substitute Josh Oyinsan had a shot sail across the face of the goal.
But Concord held on to score a famous victory and progress to the last four of the competition for the first time ever, where they will face Southern League Division One Central side Halesowen Town with the second leg at the Aspect Arena.
Concord Rangers (Manager: Danny Scopes): Chris Haigh, David Olufemi © (Michael O’Donoghue), Nathan Carlyle, Billy Roast, Aron Pollock, Jack Cawley, Scott High, Taylor Maloney, Kit Elliott (Decarrey Sheriff 91), James Blanchfield (Lamar Reynolds 79), Joel Nouble.
Royston Town (Manager: Steve Castle): Joe Welch, Gus Scott-Morriss, Luke Warner-Eley, Scott Bridges, Ben Martin, Dan Braithwaite ©, Josh Castiglione, Ed Asafu-Adjaye (Dan Green 66), Adam Murray (Josh Oyinsan 79), Matt Bateman (Brandon Adams 84), Adam Watkins.