2012/13: (Carlsberg) FA Vase – First Qualifying Round: Hemsworth MW v Nostell MW

The start of a new month and the opening weekend of the 2012/13 FA Vase competition. For those not familiar with this tournament, my thanks to Wikipedia who provide the following details. “…The Football Association Challenge Vase, commonly known as the FA Vase, is a knockout cup competition in English football, organised by and named after The Football Association (the FA). It was staged for the first time in the 1974–75 season, effectively replacing the FA Amateur Cup, which was discontinued after the abolition of official amateur status by the FA. While the leading teams from the Amateur Cup switched to the existing FA Trophy, the lower-level teams entered the new FA Vase. As of 2008, the Vase is open to all clubs in levels five to seven of the National League System, equivalent to levels nine to eleven of the overall English football league system, although clubs from other leagues may apply to enter if their stadiums meet certain requirements…” In addition, the Final is played at Wembley Stadium and the current holders (2011/12)  are Dunston UTS who defeated West Auckland Town 2-0. 

Welcome to Hemsworth MW

Looking back I think I’ve only attended one FA Vase game previously down in the Southwest at Minehead AFC. Today though it was a short train journey for the tie between West Yorkshire neighbours, Hemsworth Miners Welfare (MW) and Nostell MW. Both teams play in the (Baris) Northern Counties East League, with Hemsworth in Division One and Nostell in the Premier Division. Nostell had suffered a poor start to the season, exiting the FA Cup and picking up only two points from six League games, leaving them next to bottom. Hemsworth had only played three League games (winning two), due to their involvement in the League Cup and FA Cup and perhaps fancied their chances of causing an upset.

Nostell striker Mitchell Pearson

However, it was the visitors from Nostell who settled more quickly and in the opening exchanges the front three of Marchant, Eyles and Pearson caused the Hemsworth defence plenty of problems. As Hemsworth struggled in the opening twenty minutes the soft September sun was slashed through with some good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon (tinged with more than a hint of Yorkshire), as frustration grew within the home back-four. Having weathered the early storm, Hemsworth worked their way back in, managing to at last to get some possession and provide a threat going forward through Neil Towler. With just five minutes to the break it looked like the teams would go in at 0-0, but this all changed within a couple of minutes, as the dangerous Mitchell Pearson put Nostell ahead on forty minutes. Before Hemsworth had time to recover, they conceded a second within a minute. From a long ball forward, full-back Matthew Stor misjudged the flight which allowed Nostell striker Jimmy Eyles through on goal to slot past Hemsworth keeper Dale Walstow. As the whistle blew for the end of the first-half a shell-shocked Hemsworth found themselves 2-0 down and facing an early exit from the competition.

Hemsworth clubhouse and changing rooms

No doubt with the words of manager Wayne Benn still ringing in their ears, Hemsworth come out with determination in the second-half. The home team had the better of the possession in the opening twenty minutes, without really creating any significant chances. Instead it was Nostell who got a third goal on sixty seven minutes from an excellent run and finish from Jimmy Eyles. That was game-over for Hemsworth, who did at least did manage a consolation goal on eighty five minutes, when substitute Robbie Crapper scored. In truth, Nostell had been more clinical than Hemsworth and deserved their 3-1 win and a home tie in the next round against AFC Blackpool. For the home team, this was another exit from a cup competition, following on from their FA Cup and League Cup defeats. To use a cliché, “they can now concentrate on the League” – and it’s only the first week of September.

2011/12: FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round – FC Halifax Town v Tadcaster Albion

Back in August I started my FA Cup adventure at Hemsworth Miners Welfare and their Preliminary Qualifying tie against Tadcaster Albion. Whilst in the next two rounds I was watching Garforth Town beat Sheffield FC and then lose to Frickley Athletic, Tadcaster progressed with victories over Pontefract Collieries and Scarborough Athletic. The draw for the 2nd Qualifying Round had Albion make the trip to The Shay Stadium to take on FC Halifax Town, so I decided to take up my Cup trail with The Brewers once more.

Along with Staveley Miners Welfare, Tadcaster Albion were the last of the (Baris) Northern Counties East League (NCEL) representatives in the Cup. In terms of League form, Albion lost their opening two fixtures, but have been unbeaten in their other five games to date. Their last League game saw three points snatched away in the dying minutes of the game as Parkgate scored to grab a 3-3 draw.

For The Shaymen, it has been a bit of a bumpy ride since their promotion to the (Blue Square) Conference North Division. On the opening day of the season Town suffered a 3-1 home loss to Corby Town and their last home fixture was an even more emphatic home defeat as they lost 5-1 to ten-man Vauxhall FC. However, in their last couple of fixtures Halifax have shown what they are capable of when coming back from 3-1 at half-time to beat Guiseley 4-3 at Nethermoor and then securing a 0-0 draw at Harrogate Town.

It was hard to believe as I entered the ground that it was the first day of October. With blue skies and high temperatures, the unseasonal weather gave the stadium a feel of a venue about to host a preseason friendly rather than a Cup tie. Indeed, despite a crowd of 1,002, there was very little atmosphere. This may have been due to the apprehension of the home crowd at the prospect of a giant-killing act by the visitors, combined with memories of the mauling by Vauxhall in the last fixture here.

Tadcaster were certainly not over-awed in the opening exchanges and as early as the third minute forced a good save from Town keeper Simon Eastwood. Halifax began to settle into the game as they dominated possession, however, this was not really turned into chances that worked Albion custodian Arran Reid apart from one excellent double-save from the young keeper. With frustration evident in the crowd as The Shaymen failed to break down the visitors, the home fans were stunned on the half hour mark when from an Albion corner was headed home by Carl Stewart to put Tadcaster ahead. The remainder of the half saw Halifax continue their domination of possession without really stretching The Brewers defence. Half-time came and Town returned to the dressing room with a real air of discontent amongst the Shay faithful.

Home manager Neil Aspin responded by replacing Anton Foster with Scott Hogan at the start of the second half as Town continued to toil away in the Yorkshire sun. Further substitutions came on the hour as James Dean replaced Danny Holland up front. However, the visitors looked relatively untroubled and with seventy five minutes gone, Aspin threw on recent signing Jason St Juste. His introduction gave Halifax a real threat of pace, but with ten minutes remaining it looked like the visitors would still hang on to their lead. Then on 81 minutes St Juste got down the wing and his cross was headed home by fellow substitute James Dean, which at last brought some noise from the home crowd. This changed the whole complexion of the game and suddenly the home players and fans could sense that perhaps a winner was still possible. However, as the ninety minutes ticked away the visitors had a good shout for a penalty turned down and it seemed that Albion had done enough to earn a replay. Four minutes of added time were indicated and these were all but up when Town were awarded a corner. From it Scott McManus headed home and cue celebrations from relieved home fans and bench. As the Albion plays slumped in exhaustion and disbelief, keeper Reid remonstrated with the Assistant referee, claiming that the corner award was incorrect, but merely earned a booking for his troubles. The Brewers kicked-off and launched one final ball into the Halifax penalty area, but it was game over and their brave Cup adventure was over.

It was a fantastic effort by Tadcaster and certainly Halifax knew that they had been in a game. Tadcaster have the FA Vase to look forward to in November and will relish it after their FA Cup campaign. For Halifax, they go into the draw for the FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round on Monday (3rd October), knowing that it was a last gasp victory, but hoping that this might be the start of something special.

Postscript: At the Tech5 Stadium, Frickley Athletic were up against Harrogate Town. Visitors Town started brightly and took the lead through Will Turl. Frickley worked their way back into the game and just before half-time equalised through Grant Darley. The replay takes place at the CNG Stadium in Harrogate on Tuesday 4th October (kick-off 7.45pm).