Bowers & Pitsea 2 Morpeth Town 2, FA Vase Semi-Final, First Leg
Morpeth Town will head back to Craik Park with everything still to play for in their FA Vase Semi-Final with Bowers & Pitsea after the sides played out a 2-2 draw at Thames Road on Saturday afternoon.
However, it could have been so much better for Nick Gray’s side as goals from Sean Taylor and Michael Chilton had given the Highwaymen a two-goal lead at the half.
But late strikes from Lewis Manor and Alfie Hilton leave the tie very much in the balance.
The home side started strongly, with Tom Hine shooting wide and Ross Adams following suit a couple of minutes later.
A sublime finish opened the scoring in the 11th minute, Karl Dryden’s goal-kick was glanced forward by Chilton into the path of Taylor, who tried an audacious 35-yard lob and connected perfectly to float the ball over Martyn Guest into the back of the net.
From that point. Morpeth were in the ascendency, James Novak going close with a long-range effort after a well-worked corner.
Morpeth added a second on 34 minutes through veteran striker Chilton. A poor goal-kick from Guest was picked up on halfway by Keith Graydon. His defence-splitting pass found Taylor who broke through the back-line, shooting low. His shot was only parried by Guest into the path Chilton, who guided the ball home.
With 20 minutes gone in the second half, Bowers thought they had pulled one goal back, Aaron Russell latching on to a through-ball and converting smartly, the flag, however, was raised for offside.
On 70 minutes, Morpeth went close to picking up a third, Dale Pearson’s cross was met by a defender and the ball looped into the air. As Chilton was going for the ball Aaron Waters kicked away his legs with no attempt to play the ball.
The ball then bounced on the fall, Chilton able to poke the ball to an onrushing Ben Sayer, whose goal-bound effort was denied on the line by a recovering Waters.
Within a minute, the hosts had pulled on back. Vinny Durrant’s right-wing in-swinging corner pinballed around the Morpeth penalty area before Lewis Manor swiped a foot at it, finishing low past Dryden.
Bowers & Pitsea almost levelled within five minutes, another right-wing in-swinger from Durrant was nodded narrowly wide by Luke Wilson at the back post.
With injury-time approaching, Bowers won a dubious free-kick on the right wing, the referee’s assistant reacting to a chorus of shouts from the home fans.
Durrant was again the provider, his cross headed away by Swailes fell to Ross Adams, whose wayward strike was flicked into the bottom left-hand corner by Hilton.
Despite the disappointing nature of losing a two-goal lead, the Highwaymen would have taken a draw at the beginning of the game, meaning a win next Saturday will secure a Wembley trip.
The second leg of the FA Vase Semi-Final against Bowers & Pitsea takes place at Craik Park on Saturday afternoon at 3pm.
Although tickets are being sold for the match, it will not be an all-ticket affair and you will be able to purchase tickets on the gate. Tickets will cost £6 for adults, £3 for concession and £1 for U16s.