Willows crash out of Cup with disappointing defeat

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Walsham-le-Willows 1 Ely City 2

by Derek Bish at Summer Road

WALSHAM-LE-WILLOWS blew a glorious chance to reach the first qualifying round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history.

The Willows — pointless in the Ridgeons League — went into the match having earned a 1-1 draw at Ely City, to set up Wednesday night’s replay.

But Paul Smith’s charges put in an inept first half display to trail at the break and when they finally did rally with less than 10 minutes to play, it was much too late.

“We said in the dressing room before the game it was important to start well and we didn’t do that, which put us on the backfoot right from the word go and made it hard to get into the game,” said Smith. “Fortunately we were just 1-0 down at half-time, but they got a second one and we just had to throw everything at them then.

“We got a goal back and then missed a gilt-edged chance, but the damage had already been done.”

A frenetic opening lacked quality and the only strike hit with any real venom — by Ely’s Poitr Czarnecki in the 23rd minute — sailed over the crossbar.

The visitors had looked the more dangerous outfit and forced 10 first-half corners, the first six of which were comfortably dealt with by Walsham.

However, Walsham suddenly forgot how to defend a set piece, allowing Luke Parkinson to rise at the near post and send a thumping header past Duncan McAnally via the inside of the near post from Nick Impey’s right-wing corner.

Jack Brame responded by firing Willows’ best chance wide less than a minute later, but corner number eight for Ely nearly produced another goal when Tom Beech struck the crossbar.

The Summer Road outfit huddled together at the start of the second half to gee each other up, and they certainly moved up a gear without ever seriously troubling Lee Pacey in the Ely goal.

However, they were dealt a sucker punch when McAnally hesitated, allowing Josh Bridgeman to lob the ball into the net after being played in by Beech.

The match seemed out of sight, but typical of the FA Cup, there was so nearly a late twist.

Walsham got back in the game when Tom Fenner headed home Paul Musgrove’s right-wing corner at the back post, and within 60 seconds had two glorious chances to level as Ely crumbled under pressure.

Sadly for the Willows, Pacey produced a magnificent save from point-blank range to deny substitute James Heathcote before Craig Skipp blasted wide when in a similar position.

With that late flurry went Walsham’s last chances to force extra-time, and manager Smith’s task must now be to turnaround his side’s terrible league form. He said: “We’ve got to keep the boys’ heads up, keep them going and sort it out on the training ground.”

Willows: McAnally, Morton, Newman, Fenner (Brock 88), Soanes, Skipp, Brame (Heathcote 69), Sim (Churchill 54), Hughes, Musgrove, Lambert. Subs not used: Robinson, Lash.

n Walsham host Fakenham Town in the FA Vase first qualifying round tomorrow (3pm).