I collected Barry and we headed off round the M25 in the pouring rain for what was personally both our first visit’s to Hanbury Stadium on Saturday afternoon as Bracknell Town took on Haywards Heath Town in the FA Trophy Preliminary Round.
The rain was still falling when we arrived at the ground, but all credit to the groundsman as the pitch looked perfectly playable despite the conditions.
The main team news for the Robins continued revolve around the position of goalkeeper as they started with their fourth different player between the sticks due to events in recent matches, and Sam Lock had to make a few other enforced changes to his outfield selection as well with Ben Mulley coming into the midfield.
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Initially the Blues looked to threaten as Byron Napper looked to play in Trevor McCreadie, but it came to nothing, and Callum Saunders hit a cross cum shot but Sonny Wheeler was able to let it go.
Nathan Minhas benefitted from a block which bounced to him and he turned ran towards the goal before releasing Dan Carr, but he was forced to take it wide, and his lofted cross was easily collected by Luke Glover. Charlie Losasso played the ball up to Minhas who passed to Carr allowing him to get Ben Mulley moving forward, but his shot fizzed into the side netting. Carr worked to allow Geoff Kibaki to cross the ball into the area, but the ball was headed out.
Now it was Haywards Heath who had some chances Hamish Morrison lofted a cross inform the right which cleared all his teammates. Saunders looked to break into the box, but timely tackles from Robb Sheridan and then Carl Davies thwarted him. A short throw routine gave Saunders a clear sight of goal, but he pulled his shot across the face of goal and wide of Wheeler’s goal.
Sheridan took a long throw which was nodded in the direction of Dan Brown, but he sliced his attempt. Brown hit a ball over the top from deep, but it ran away from Minhas on the slippery surface. A Losasso corner kick was punched up in the air by Glover and Davies headed it goalwards with Sheridan trying to flick it on, but it was easily collected by the keeper.
Carr hit a low cross in from the right, but it was too far in front of Minhas. However Minhas got to the byline moments later, and pulled it back but the shot was block, and a weak effort ended up being cleared off the line. The sustained pressure continued as Losasso sent in another corner kick, and Davies headed back across the area, but the resulting shot went wide. Harrison Bayley advanced to give Minhas a chance to shot on goal, but it didn’t really have much power behind it and Glover got down to his left to save it.
Haywards Heath were able to have one last attack before half time as the ball was crossed in from the right again, but it was just too high for McCreadie to get any purchase on, and the half ended goalless.
Half time: Haywards Heath Town 0 – 0 Bracknell Town
The second half started with the Blues lining all their midfielders over to the left hand side of the pitch in a move which was more reminiscent of that seen in rugby. Had the tactician been watching a certain in tournament in Japan in recent weeks ?
Anyway despite the fact that it was obvious as to what was about to occur the ball still reached Nico Cotton, and McCreadie only narrowly failed to connect with his cross.
The Robins won a free kick and Losasso’s ball ran through to Minhas, but again Glover was able to save the shot.
McCreadie saw a shot blocked which went out for a Haywards Heath corner kick, and although the ball was cleared it came out to Napper on the edge of the area who hit a bullet of a half volley past Wheeler to give the home side a 1-0 lead on the 52nd minute!
The Blues had a free kick on the right which was headed clear, and that lead to Bracknell break which was halted. Losasso sent a free kick into the box, only for that to be cleared leading to the home side breaking away, but it ran out of steam as the defence dealt with it.
On Bracknell’s next attack the scores were level at 1-1 when Carr hit a shot from outside the box which squirmed under Glover as the clock ticked to 57 minutes!
Carr set up Losasso for a chance to shoot from outside the area as the defence back peddled, but Glover was able to beat it away. Losasso had a free kick which was flicked goalward by Caden Genovesi, but Glover was able to reach down to save it. Kibaki got down to the byeline and pulled the ball back to Brown, but he slipped over.
Haywards Heath introduced the incredibly tall and powerful Melford Simpson from the bench, and the feel of the game changed as they looked to find him with high balls on every occasion.
With the tie hanging on the edge of a knife its’ ending felt like one the Agatha Christie novels published by Penguin Books, where the outcome is revealed in the final minutes of the story.
On the 88th minute the vital act occurred when Glover hoofed an extra-long goal kick upfield, and almost immediately it was apparent that his counterpart Wheeler would need to be concentrating fully because he was back tracking to try and get back on his line.
However he seemed to misjudge the bounce, and then found himself unable to get back to palm it out. For one side ecstasy as the Blues rushed to hug Glover for making it 2-1 with so little time to go !!
Ousman Darboe sent in a cross which was headed back by Minhas, but Glover had no trouble in collecting it.
This was the cue for the home side to break up the pattern of play, so as to fracture any moves that The Robins put together to get back on terms. This lead to a couple of differences of opinion between the sides which of course saw some confrontations between the players including one point where Glover and Davies slid into each other in the area, and lay in agony on the pitch.
Both players were treated, and the referee awarded a drop ball to the home side to loud cheers from the crowd. More loud cheers from the home supporters greeted the final whistle signalling their progress to the next round.
Full time: Haywards Heath Town 2 – 1 Bracknell Town
Bracknell will feel disappointed not to have got anything from this encounter, but now it’s a case of that old analogy of concentrating on the league, and next up they head off to visit FA Vase holders Chertsey on Saturday 19th October in BetVictor Isthmian League South Central Division.
Bracknell Town: Wheeler, Sheridan, Genovesi, Brown, Davies, Kibaki (Gater 86 Mins), Ben Mulley (Darboe 52 Mins), Minhas, Losasso (Bayliss 90 Mins), Carr and Bayley (c) Unused Subs: Wayborn & Whiter