Whittlesey Athletic stage dramatic upset to seal FA Vase history

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Whittlesey Athletic celebrate after goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs makes the winning save. - Credit: Spencer Holl

Goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs turned into Whittlesey Athletic’s hero as he helped his team etch themselves in club folklore. 

Bellairs saved the decisive spot kick in Whittlesey’s 7-6 penalty shootout win over higher-tier Worcester City after a goalless draw in a dramatic FA Vase second round proper tie today (Saturday). 

The ‘keeper also denied several Worcester chances throughout a nervous affair at Feldale Field in front of a bumper crowd to reach the third round proper for the first time. 

“Three, four shots from distance, he made some brilliant saves,” Whittlesey’s player-manager Ricky Hailstone said. 

“He was absolutely superb.  

“I’ve been critical of him before after the odd mistake, but days like today show exactly what he’s about.” 

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Whittlesey Athletic watch on during the penalty shootout. - Credit: Spencer Holl

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Whittlesey Athletic goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs celebrates in front of the Worcester City fans during the penalty shootout. - Credit: Spencer Holl

Whittlesey were forced to defend for large parts of the contest, Joe Moore-Papworth and top scorer James Hill-Seekings enjoying the hosts’ best chances. 

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But Worcester, of the Midland League Premier Division, lacked cutting edge in front of goal for a team that won all their previous six games. 

“We nullified everything they threw at us,” said Hailstone. 

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Jack Carter (left) scored a penalty for Whittlesey while James Hill-Seekings (right) enjoyed one of the team's best chances in their FA Vase win over Worcester City. - Credit: Daniel Mason

“They didn’t look like they were flying in the league above us, but at the same time, you could see they had a lot of quality.   

“Three years ago, we wouldn’t be anywhere near this.  

“It shows we’re not here to make up the numbers; we’re here to push on and do well ourselves.” 

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Aaron Bellairs saves a penalty for Whittlesey Athletic. - Credit: Spencer Holl

Whittlesey are winless in their last two Eastern Counties League (ECL) First Division North games. 

But they did not let their slight dip in form show, and now, Hailstone is confident this famous triumph can act as a platform for progress. 

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Whittlesey Athletic celebrate after goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs makes the winning save. - Credit: Spencer Holl

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Whittlesey Athletic celebrate after goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs makes the winning save. - Credit: Spencer Holl

“We’ve not been great for the last five, six weeks which is disappointing, but this should give us a stepping stone to build on,” he added. 

“You never say never to a Wembley run. 

“You’ll be in a game and we’ll stay in a game for as long as we can against anybody.” 

Whittlesey have been drawn at home to Newport Pagnell Town of the United Counties Premier Division South in the third round proper on December 11.

The tie comes after back-to-back home games with Wisbech St Mary on December 4, followed by a Cambs Invitation Cup clash with March Town three days later.

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Whittlesey Athletic celebrate after goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs makes the winning save. - Credit: Spencer Holl

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

Whittlesey Athletic celebrate after goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs makes the winning save. - Credit: Spencer Holl

Whittlesey Athletic vs Worcester City NOV 20 2021

James Hill-Seekings of Whittlesey Athletic with goalkeeper Aaron Bellairs. - Credit: Spencer Holl

*Toby Allen scored twice and Dylan Edge also netted in Wisbech Town’s 4-3 home defeat to Belper Town in the Northern Premier League Division One Midlands. 

Meanwhile, March Town secured their third ECL Premier Division win in a row as Josh Burrows’ strike earned a 1-0 win at Whitton United. 

In ECL First Division North, Wisbech St Mary and FC Parson Drove lost to Great Yarmouth Town and Downham Town respectively. 

Next Saturday, Wisbech visit Sporting Khalsa, March go to Hadleigh United, Wisbech St Mary host Diss Town and Drove are at Debenham LC, all 3pm. 

Whittlesey Athletic: Aaron Bellairs; Ricky Hailstone, Ollie Long, Jake Pell, Lewis Cook, Aaron Dunmore, Ollie Gale (sub Jack Carter, 90’+2), Harry Jenkins (C), James Hill-Seekings, Joe Moore-Papworth, Jack Bates.   

Unused subs: Ben Cowles, Rikki Wilmer, Lewis Saunders, Dan Redhead, Matt Heron. 

Cautions - Whittlesey: Gale, Jenkins. 

Man of the match: Aaron Bellairs. 

Referee: Mr Ellis Mills. 

Attendance: 314. 

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