City stun Biggleswade with fightback to reach last four in the FA Vase
By Kevin Olver
Historic day for City as record crowd sees them come from behind with two great goals to reach the semi-finals
Canterbury City 2 Biggleswade FC 1
An unbelievable sunny Sunday afternoon at Salters Lane saw Canterbury City stage a brilliant comeback to stun opponents Biggleswade FC and book their place in the semi-finals of this season's FA Vase. A goal down and looking very nervy early on, City eventually steadied themselves, hit back with two great goals - one either side of half-time and then nullified the visitors, digging in and preventing them finding any way back into the match for a wonderful and historic victory.
City looked very nervous early on and apart from a fruitless first minute corner for the hosts, Biggleswade dominated the opening stages. A second minute Alex Marsh long-range effort forced City keeper Jack Delo to go down smartly to save and after City had given the ball away a couple of times, a poorly conceded corner was then wasted by the visitors.
After only seven minutes though, Biggleswade took the lead. Lawrie Marsh slipped the ball through for Adam Hunt and his whipped in low cross from the right was bundled in from close range by Tom Cookman for 0-1.
Visiting keeper Ross Tompkins plucked a dangerous looking Jordan Casey ball out of the air confidently while at the other end Alex Marsh's thumping cross just evaded Cookman's flying effort to divert it goalwards. Several long throws, mostly from Ryan Cooper, failed to trouble the Biggleswade defence while a searching diagonal ball from Danny Lawrence found Bola Dawodu, but the City striker was crowded and defended off the ball.
City were now starting to get into the game and a handily placed Lawrence free-kick was too easily cleared, while the return ball sent in by Cooper just eluded Lawrence as he threw himself at the ball at the far post. Biggleswade responded when a right-sided corner from Ryan Inskip found Nick Henebery - he got a good contact on his header but the ball flew straight at Delo for a safe take.
Lawrence then moved forward for City but his shot from around twenty-five yards was comfortably taken by Tompkins moving quickly to his right before the visitors missed a chance to double their lead when Inskip pounced on a loose ball just outside the City box and fired a first-time shot narrowly just over the bar.
On forty-two minutes, City stunned their opponents with a cracking equaliser. A long ball forward from Delo was helped on by Casey's giant leap to flick the ball into the Biggleswade box and despite being headed back out it only fell to Lawrence who flipped the ball off to Chris Saunders. He let it bounce a couple of times before unleashing a spectacular volley that flew up and over the keeper's despairing but helpless backward dive for 1-1 and a great goal in any game let alone in the cauldron of a Vase quarter-final.
City had opportunities to possibly create a second before the break, but two long throws deep into the box and a Casey thirty-yard free-kick passed them by before in added time, the visitors almost retook the lead. A free-kick was lifted into the City box and a couple of headers later it was bobbling towards the goal before being cleared off the line to safety just as the whistle sounded to end the first-half with the teams all square.
A close shave for City before the break, but straight after there was no stopping them. A minute in and Saunders laid the ball through towards Dean Grant and a drop of the shoulder and a quick sprint later he got goal side of his marker and as Tompkins came out to close him down, he calmly slotted the ball past the keeper and into the net to give City a 2-1 lead.
In minutes the visitors had gone from being a goal in front to one behind and their response was almost instant when Lawrie Marsh fired in a fierce shot that Delo did well to dive down to his right and block the ball aside but needing a defender to clear the ball away from further danger. The resultant corner was headed clear by Cooper as Biggleswade piled on the pressure. Lee Northfield volleyed wide with a snap-shot on the run, a Ryan Inskip free-kick was powered in but somehow bypassed everyone and went out for a goal kick and then another from the same player was headed out wide at the far post.
As time wore on, Biggleswade were committing more players forward and space was starting to appear at the back with City looking to feed Grant and Casey with Dawodu backing them up. The visitors continued to push forward and on sixty-three minutes an invitingly placed free-kick routine saw Lawrie Marsh hit the ball over the wall but also just over the bar.
City made their first change replacing Casey with Renford Tenyue and then soon after Ollie Lee came on for Saunders.
In between time, Biggleswade went close when Pat McCafferty lifted the ball into the City box finding Alex Marsh in space but he couldn't get enough of a touch on the ball and ended up just steering it into Delo's grateful hands.
On seventy-four minutes, City could have doubled their advantage when Dawodu pounced on Hunt's dallying on the left and found Tenyue in the box, but his lay off into space found Phil Starkey who thumped a strong shot that flew past the far angle. Five minutes later, Biggleswade went close again as a ball to the far post was speared back across the box by Cookman but Alex Marsh, under immense pressure from Lee, could only divert the ball wide of the other post.
Still a goal behind, the visitors made their own changes and continued to press forward in search of an equaliser, but time after time, they were repelled by City. One after the after City players defied their opponents, Gary Sayer cleared under pressure and then Michael Turner and Dawodu both made brave and acrobatic headed clearances. City were digging in and defending from the front and everyone was playing their part in protecting their narrow advantage.
With time running out, Lee sent Grant off down the right and his ball across was met by Lee chasing in but his header drifted wide. Another half chance then passed the visitors by as a ball in saw Delo come through a crowd to punch the ball clear but it fell straight to Abraham Eze twenty yards out but he could only slice the ball back horribly wide. With the game now into four minutes of added time, an attacking Biggleswade free-kick was fired into the box but straight at Delo as he calmed the nerves with another safe take.
There was just one more situation for City to see out when a couple of late corners saw a great defensive header from Dawodu from the first and then from the second, leaning back, Biggleswade's Henebery could only head the ball up and well over the City bar.
With a minute to go, City brought on James Turner for Grant with the referee carefully adding on every single second but Biggleswade had nothing left in the tank and City had quite amazingly made it through to the semi-finals.
City took a while to get into their stride and Biggleswade deservedly took an early lead and dominated most of the first half, but the two goals either side of the break from City rocked the visitors back catching them cold and they just couldn't seem to find the decisive move in the second-half to play their way through the dogged and determined City defence despite being roared on by a fantastic visiting support helping to generate a wonderful atmosphere.
For Canterbury City Football Club, it was another memorable day for the club, the officials, the team - playing and management - and the supporters who continue to fly the flag for the City of Canterbury with pride and distinction despite their own council's apathy and indifference!
Final score: Canterbury City 2 Biggleswade FC 1
City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner, Ryan Cooper, Phil Starkey, Luke Wheatley, Gary Sayer, Danny Lawrence, Chris Saunders (Ollie Lee), Dean Grant (James Turner), Jordan Casey (Renford Tenyue), Bola Dawodu
Unused Subs: Josh Froggatt, Rob Lawrence