Tadcaster Albion 2 Morpeth Town 1 FA Vase, Round Two
A controversial penalty decision was the difference between the teams on Saturday as Morpeth’s Wembley dreams were extinguished for another year.
Tadcaster are one of the favourites for this season’s FA Vase competition. They currently sit at the top of the Northern Counties East League, Premier Division, unbeaten and with maximum points from their last 11 matches.
The hosts boasted a midfield that included former Manchester United and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Jonathan Greening.
The Highway Men went into the match unbeaten in three games having dispatched West Allotment Celtic in midweek to reach the semi-final of the Northumberland Senior Cup. This game had taken its toll, however, as injuries had been sustained by Matty Grieve and Chris Jewels, compounded with the suspension of forward Steven Anderson.
The match on Saturday was decided by a hotly-disputed decision from the referee, as in last season’s round-of-16 exit when Jordan Fry was sent off in the first minute, only later to be rescinded on the basis of video evidence.
This time it was the 93rd-minute penalty awarded against defender Wayne Buchanan. Hull referee Andrew Dunne deemed that he fouled an opponent in the box.
The Morpeth bench believed that the Tadcaster player went down too easily and the Northumberland club will be writing to the FA concerning the decision.
Putting aside the controversial ending, the game was a great advert for football at this level. Sean Taylor went close to creating an opening goal for Town when he broke down the left, ghosting past the right-back, before crossing to Michael Chilton, who had his header cleared off the line.
As the match developed, the visitors were quite content to let Tadcaster have possession at the back and then hit them on the break, with former Spennymoor midfielder Keith Graydon calling the tune when sending probing balls into Chilton and Taylor.
Tadcaster always looked threatening on the attack, particularly when Greening was on the ball, and from one of his crosses on the right forward Ormsby saw his header well saved by Town keeper Karl Dryden.
The hosts then took the lead when Buchanan, under pressure from Josh Greening (Jonathan’s younger brother), could only head his clearance to Ormsby, who sent a beautiful curling shot from 20 yards into the top right-hand corner, giving Dryden no chance.
Town soon rallied from this and with the superb support of over 100 travelling fans they began to assert pressure onto the home defence, with Shaun Bell and Jordan Fry pushing forward on every occasion to support Taylor and Chilton.
The second half saw the Highway Men come out determinedly, with Taylor causing the home defence all sorts of problems with his darting runs, and on two occasions he was really unlucky when he was clean through on goal, only to be flagged up for very tight offside decisions.
Morpeth were having much more of the possession in this half and the home side were rocked when following a slick move down the left involving James Novak and Chilton, Fry curled a great shot into the top corner to equalise.
Tadcaster were really under the rack at this stage, with Dryden a spectator, and it seemed a matter of time before Town would score – with Taylor putting in a series of crosses from the right which home keeper Tom Morgan did well to handle.
Then with three minutes of injury time being played, the referee awarded the hotly-disputed penalty with Ormsby putting the ball high to Dryden’s right, giving him no chance. Graydon was then dismissed for an innocuous tackle as Tadcaster defended the last few moments to advance.
After the game, Morpeth Town chairman Ken Beattie said the award of the penalty was ‘the worst he had seen in 40 years of watching non-league football’.
Manager Nick Gray added: “It was a really soft penalty. A game of this importance should not be decided in this fashion.
“I spoke to a few of the Tadcaster players after the game and they all said they thought it wasn’t a penalty.”
Morpeth are at home to North Shields in the league on Saturday. Kick-off is 3pm.