Wisbech Town through to league-cup semis after deserved extra-time victory
Ridgeons League Challenge Cup Quarter-Final: Wisbech Town 3 Kirkley & Pakefield 1 (aet)
IT would have been a travesty had Wisbech Town been dumped out of the league cup despite needing extra time to clinch a thoroughly deserved place in the semi-finals.
Despite absolutely dominating possession and creating a hatful of chances it seemed like the Fenmen had blown it all when the visitors equalised with their first shot on target in the 82nd minute.
You could sense it coming even though a rampant Wisbech side had threatened to notch up a cricket score, especially in the first half.
So it was apt that the delightfully named Ryan De Coteau headed home the visitors’ equaliser. When he’s not staging smash and grab raids at the Tom Wood’s Beer Fenland Stadium during the football season he’s playing cricket for Lowestoft in the summer.
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Thankfully, and deservedly so, goals from Jon Fairweather and Matt Lunn in the second-half of extra time saved the game from going to penalties. The match should really have been done and dusted before half time.
Many would have expected the quarter-final to be a close affair with both sides amassing 42 points in the Ridgeons Premier Division so far this season. But Wisbech have hit a run of form of late and were unbeaten in three going into the game.
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The Fenmen also haven’t lost at home since a 2-0 defeat to Haverhill Rovers in September.
So it was probably a surprise that the first half was so one-sided. Ash Stevens could have put the home side in front inside five minutes but his right-footed shot was saved comfortably by Dave Attridge.
And minutes later the Kirkley & Pakefield ‘keeper was at full stretch again to keep out a fine effort from the energetic Lewis Thompson.
As the pressure continued Wisbech took a deserved lead when Stevens headed home a fine Callum Reed corner. It may have taken a deflection on the way in but it was another poacher’s goal for the rejuvinated frontman who wheeled away in celebration.
And it seemed like more celebrating was soon to follow as Wisbech poured forward in numbers. The side’s tempo, pressing and passing simply blew the visitors away and Reed’s amazing cross - almost a carbon-copy of his delivery against Great Yarmouth Town just over a week ago - was screaming to be touched home.
But it wasn’t, as neither Fairweather nor Thompson could steer the ball home.
Reed, continued to whip in crosses and set-pieces with all the quality of a professional player and nearly scored directly from a corner. The 20-year-old then saw his effort turned into the path of Ash Stevens who slotted home - only to be ruled offside.
Even though the chances started to dry up slightly it was still all Wisbech and Reed nearly made it 2-0 minutes before the break as his wonder cross from the right struck the upright. Only he’ll know if he was going for goal.
So once again at half time the discussion was all about how Wisbech hadn’t wrapped the game up.
Few can criticise their current play because it’s easy on the eye, exciting and eventually someone’s going to get a thumping. But at only 1-0 it always leaves the door open - if only slightly.
With Anthony Reeve and Stacy Cartwright in dominant form at the back, supported superbly by Fairweather and the soon-to-be suspended Scott Johnson, you did wonder if the visitors possessed enough attacking threat to pull level.
But they did in the 82nd minute and as the game headed for extra-time it seemed like Steve Appleby’s side were going to rue their inability to be clinical once again.
Wisbech’s cause was helped in stoppage-time when Bodie Carter was sent off after collecting his second booking for a blatant trip on Matt Lunn but normal time lapsed and extra time began.
And much like the end of the second half it wasn’t as comfortable for Wisbech - whose confidence seemed to have deserted them. The Fenmen were starting to run out of ideas, and time.
But as the second half of extra time began Appleby’s troops began to pose more of a goal-threat and chased a winner.
Andy Furnell’s looped effort flew agonisingly wide but with just four minutes left on the clock Fairweather put Wisbech in touching distance of the semis.
Reed’s corner was headed goalwards by Reeve. The man mountain’s header was saved by Attridge but Fairweather pounced, only to see his effort cleared off the line. However, the Fenmen’s right-back for the night smashed home the rebound.
In the dying seconds Wisbech got the third goal their efforts deserved when the impressive Billy Smith - whose pace and trickery was a nightmare for the visitors’ wary legs when he came on - squared to Lunn who took a touch before bending the ball into the bottom corner to wrap up the win.
Wisbech: Jordan, Fairweather, Reeve, Cartwright, Johnson, Reed, Thompson (Furnell, 87), Jones, Lunn, Treacher (Flanz, 93) Stevens (Smith, 79), Subs not used: Cousins
Man of the match: Jon Fairweather - Talented youngster replaced the consistent Flanz at right-back to excellent effect. Solid, pacy, committed and linked up well with the equally impressived Reed on the right-hand side.