Morpeth make history with FA Vase progress

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BIRKHAMPSTED 1 MORPETH TOWN 2

Morpeth Town survived an early setback to advance to the quarter-finals of the FA Vase for the first time in their history, coming from a goal down to win 2-1 away to Berkhamsted on Saturday.

A Luke Carr penalty on the stroke of half time cancelled an 11th minute Tom Carter header before Town talisman Michael Chilton bundled home a 64th minute corner to secure the Highwaymen’s passage to the sixth round.

Morpeth made the first part of the 570-mile round trip on Friday evening to prepare properly for the last-sixteen tie. Town made two changes from the side that defeated North Shields on Monday,

Jordan Fry and Ben Sayer missing out, Luke Carr and Lee McAndrew steeping into the breach.

Despite the stayover, the Highwaymen started the game sluggishly, allowing Berkhamsted to control the opening minutes of the game without really creating anything substantial.

At the other end, in the 5th minute, a well worked short corner by Carr and James Novak laid the ball into Keith Graydon on the edge of the area, his sharp effort flying just the wrong side of the left-hand upright.

The Highwaymen went close again on the counter with 8 minutes on the clock, Stephen Forster picking up an errand pass, cutting onto his left foot outside of the area before hitting a effort goal wards, a deflection taking the pace off it, comfortably gathered by the ‘keeper.

The Comrades came close to opening the scoring, Dan Weeks quick throw was allowed to find Lewis Rodridge in the area whose shot was parried by Karl Dryden and turned behind.

The resulting corner brought the opening goal, Alex Campbell’s pinpoint corner diverted home by the head of Carter, despite the best efforts of Graydon on the line.

A more sustained period of pressure followed from the hosts, Karl Dryden forced into a number of saves including one from a 20-yard Alex Campana shot that the Morpeth stopper palmed wide.

As the first half wore on, the visitors began to get into the game and play the football the Morpeth fans have been accustomed to this season.

Some fine interplay between Novak, Taylor and Carr saw the ball squared to latter in the penalty area, his right footed effort from 8-yards out blocked by the diving Dale Sears.

The rebound eventually found Forster on the edge of area, who again struck left footed, but over the bar. The resultant corner was headed over at the back post by Chris Swailes.

A long range Novak effort followed minutes later, but this flew over the bar from 30-yards out.

The turning point came in first half injury time, as the referee adjudged substitute Shaun Bell to have been brought down on the edge of the area. Graydon stepped up and fired a free-kick which deflected off the end of the wall.

The referee pointed to the spot for hand ball allowing Luke Carr to send Dean Tasker the wrong way and level the scores going into the break, an emphatic penalty.

The second half started as the first finished, and Chilton was unlucky when he rounded the keeper, only to see his effort cleared off the line by a defendern for a corner.

Morpeth then had two penalty claims turned aside by the referee.

Berkhamsted’s nervy defensive play continued, multiple chances to clear were squandered before Carr broke down the left, crossing for Sean Taylor to try his luck, Tasker denying him from close range.

Set-pieces caused the home side a lot of problems, a short corner from the right was whipped in from Carr to the back post, Swailes unable to head the ball on target.

The crucial moment came in the 64th minute, Novak’s right wing corner was fired in low into the 6 yard box. The ball bobbled around as seven played rushed to the ball, with Chilton poking home for his 21st goal of the season.

Carr caused the home side more problems when, he beat four defender with a mazy run, but couldn’t finish from the edge of the area.

The task got harder for the Comrades in the 82nd minute, right-back Dan Edwards lunged in on Gradyon receiving a second yellow card.

But the home side pushed on the final few minutes, and in the final seconds of the game almost took the game to extra time. Campana’s left wing corner was tipped onto the crossbar by Dryden and away from goal, the final whistle bowing seconds later.

The result sees the Highwaymen advance to the FA Vase quarter-finals for the first time in their long history, and will take on Bristol Manor Farm. the conquerors of fellow Northern League side Sunderland RCA, at home on February 20,