Heroic City Move Into Last Thirty-Two of the FA Vase
By Kevin Olver
Historic victory for City as Rob Lawrence strikes again with another FA Vase extra-time winner.
Canterbury City 1 Southall 0
A heroic victory for City today as they reached the last thirty-two of the FA Vase for the first time in their history. Given the importance of the game and City's recent run of form, it was one of those matches where the result was of far greater signifigcance than the performance and City duly ground out a much needed, determined and battling tight, single goal victory - with hero of the last round Rob Lawrence popping up again with another extra-time winner to send his team through.
It was a difficult afternoon for both sides with the weather ensuring playing conditions were far from ideal. Driving rain blowing across the pitch and a blustery wind hampered play but both both sides battled hard to provide a close and competitive match.
Although City started with some much needed urgency it was Southall that had the opening efforts on goal. Edrisa Dampha had a shot charged down while Jack Bennett saw his blocked and Darreon Mark sliced his attempt well wide as Southall settled into the game much the quicker while City sought to keep their back door shut and not concede any early goals.
Bennett's free-kick for Southall was sent in and the wind took it flying close to the far post but with City keeper Jack Delo scrambling across, the ball flew too far and ultimately curled wide while City's first real attack was halted by the offside flag raised just as James Turner shot wide. He almost got through shortly after though when some lovely work on the left by Jordan Casey saw him chip the ball menacingly through the Southall defence, but this time however it was visiting keeper Rory Mullane who thwarted the City striker grabbing the ball a second or two before Turner could make contact.
The play then immediately switched to the other end where this time it was Delo who needed to be at his most alert to make a similar take of a piercing through ball that split the City defence as Southall broke forward at speed.
Good chances were at a premium in a tense struggle but City's Adam Woollcott saw his long range effort skip a yard wide with Mullane nervously moving across his goal to cover it while Ricardo Faux-James pounced on some loose City play in midfield before moving forward, but then from a good position, skying his shot well high and wide.
There was little else of note in the first half to trouble the scorers although a Kane Phillip cross initially looked inviting but caught in the wind and flew over the far post and a long range effort from Mark went well wide of the City goal.
Nothing much to see here so far to be honest as half-time arrived with the teams goalless but, to be fair, playing in some very difficult conditions.
The visitors restarted the better and within a minute of the kick-off, City were indebted to Delo for a brilliant point blank spreading block to deny Ashley Nzala from opening the scoring with a free header as Southall hit City with a lightening break.
They had another chance just a couple of minutes later when Faux-James intercepted a hurried Delo clearance but from a great position he wastefully, could only find the side-netting. The City keeper was by far the busier and he pulled off another great stop as a glanced flying header came in albeit just as the offside flag went up anyway, but it was still a good save.
The last quarter of the game turned into a bit of a slog and with the rain worsening both sides made several changes with the unfortunate Dave Pilcher only on the pitch for City for a few minutes as after replacing James Turner he was soon off again after coming off the worse in a crunching tackle.
Woollcott meanwhile saw his long range, first-time volley go over the bar while at the other end, Mark saw his fierce shot charged down and then another low effort skim just wide of the City goal.
At this stage it was difficult to see where a winner was going to come from for either side, but presumably wanting to avoid a midweek replay in Middlesex, City upped the ante in the last ten minutes and had their best spell of the game. A tussling run and full circle turn from Phillip won City a corner but disappointingly it was sent straight into Mullane's gloves at the near post while a clever pass from Lawrence then put Phillip into space but his shot was deflected out for another corner which was defended out and volleyed back in by City but just over the bar.
As the game moved into injury time City continued to press and Casey sliced his shot wide when well placed while debutant Kyron Lightfoot flicked a Phillip cross just over the Southall bar.
Four additional minutes couldn't separate the sides so the tie went into a further period of extra-time in which City continued to carry on exactly where they had left off from the ninety. Phillip looked by far their best route to goal and three times he got himself into promising positions but sheer weight of defensive numbers on each occasion saw the attacks break down, but he then almost succeeded with another attack when his ball into the box came through a crowd leaving Lawrence with just a second to react but he only had time to prod a hurried effort wide.
At the other end, Southall were still seeking a goal and Mark saw an effort deflected out for an unsuccessful corner while a decent move down their right saw Michael Turner clear the ball up and over his own bar for another and then a further saw a header sent wearily wide.
Finally, with thirteen minutes of extra-time played, the deadlock was broken and it was City that took the all important lead. A Casey long throw from the right was headed up and out at the near post but flicked on by Laurence Harvey in the middle and fell nicely into space before popping up off the turf for Lawrence to react the quickest and nip in with a stooping header forcing the ball home through Mullane for 1-0 and City celebration and relief all around.
City saw out the rest of the first half of extra-time with their lead intact and now just had fifteen minutes more to negotiate for their historic victory.
Southall were desperate to get forward and find something to keep themselves in the competition but City stood firm. One shot was blocked and then another as City players threw themselves in front of anything and everything to protect their precious lead as Southall - probably seeing a little too much of the ball for comfort at this stage - continued to hurry into attack.
The pressure was momentarily relieved by Josh McCallum who suddenly found himself surging forward in a one man attack, but without support and surrounded and overwhelmed by several opponents he eventually relinquished possession.
As the clock ticked by a Southall shot curled just wide of the City post but with Delo on hand to make sure it was covered and Liam Quinn launched himself in front of a fierce shot deflecting it out for a corner. With the time almost as good as up and Mullane haring forward in a last desperate effort to force an equaliser, Southall strangely didn't send the ball straight in, but when they eventually did, Delo was up to the task plucking the ball out of the air to calm the City nerves.
With just seconds now left, some brilliant last ditch defending by James Nurden conceded Southall a further corner and with Mullane still up, again they were slow to send the ball in and when they did it was cleared with ease as the final whistle blew.
A situation perfect display from City and although he hasn't had a mention, Ollie Lee was man-of-the match for me epitomising a battling and determined team performance, a hard fought and much needed victory for City - on several fronts - and it is they that go into the hat for Monday's draw.
Final score: Canterbury City 1 Southall 0
City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner, James Nurden, Laurence Harvey, Liam Quinn, Ollie Lee, Kyron Lightfoot, Adam Woollcott (Brett Ince), Jordan Casey, James Turner (Dave Pilcher) [Rob Lawrence], Kane Phillip (Josh McCallum).
Unused sub: Dan Keyte