Mission Impossible it was called, the underdogs they were called, but that all means little to Nick Gray, Ken Beattie and Northern League club Morpeth Town.

Faced with an admittedly tough task in overcoming a Hereford side backed by 20,000 vibrant, noisy supporters, the dandy Highwaymen(sorry!) produced a stunning performance and sent the FA Vase back to the North East for the seventh time in eight years.

Goals from Chris Swailes, Luke Carr, Sean Taylor and Shaun Bell meant that the Northern League preserved its outstanding recent record in the competition.

But how it could have been very different as the Bulls got off to the perfect start, taking the lead with just over a minute on the clock. 

Joe Tumelty found some room just inside the Morpeth Town half and found Rob Purdie twenty yards from goal. 

The experienced midfielder took a touch before smashing the ball past a helpless Karl Dryden to send the massive following from Hereford into raptures.

Minutes later it was almost two and it would have been if not for the alert goalkeeping of the Highwaymen’s number one Karl Dryden.  He was quick off his line to block a Sirdic Grant effort after the winger had taken a return pass from Mike Symons.

Morpeth were struggling to get a foothold in the and again their keeper Dryden was at the heart of the action again moments later as he again frustrated the Bulls once again by tipping a Pablo Haysham header around the post.

Finally the Northern League side managed to get into the game on the quarter of an hour mark as left back James Novak found Sean Taylor in some space on the edge of the Bulls area.

He took a touch before firing a rising effort towards the near post but Hereford keeper Martin Horsell managed to tip the ball over the bar.

Midway through the half there was a let off for Morpeth as livewire winger Grant robbed Novak of possession swailes goalbefore firing a rasping shot that smashed off the crossbar with Dryden beaten.

The game was opening up and Highwaymen midfielder Sayer sent a warning shot towards the Bulls as he advanced towards their area and smashed over the bar.

The Northumberland outfit were growing in confidence and got back on level terms ten minutes before the break with a goal from veteran defender Chris Swailes.

A Sayer corner from the left found the forty five year old at the far post and he bundled the ball over the line from close range.

Minutes later they should have taken the lead as striker Michael Chilton missed a golden chance to put his side in front.

Sean Taylor broke into the left hand side of the Bulls area and rolled the ball across goal to an unmarked Chilton but he sidefooted the ball wide of the far post. 

That miss meant that the sides went into the break on leve terms after a pulsating, not to mention intense, opening half to the game.

Just as there had been in the first half there was to be an early goal in the second, but this time it fell to Morpeth Town.

Winger Luke Carr pounced on a pull back and slotted the ball into the far corner from around ten yards out, their momentum from the end of the first half had carried on.

The Highwaymen extended their lead just before the hour mark and were thankful for the smart forward play of Chilton.

The striker held up play intelligently and rolled the ball inside the area to winger Sean Taylor.  Without breaking stride he smashed a low drive just inside the near post, much to the delight of the Highwaymen bench and the 4,000 supporters that had made the journey from the North East.

With ninenteen minutes left on the clock Hereford wasted a golden chance to get back into the game as substitute John Mills almost scored with his first touch.

The striker raced on to an instinctive flick from fellow substitute Mustapha Bundu and looked set to roll the ball home but the presence of the advancing Dryden put him off and the ball rolled harmlessly through to the Morpeth keeper.

graydonThe Bulls pushed forward, looking for that much-needed equaliser and that left space at the back that was nearly exposed by Morpeth.

Substitute Steven Anderson was played in on goal by the impressive Ben Sayer but as he cut inside he could only produce a soft shot that was easily gathered by Horsell.

Hereford kept pushing forward and the lively Bundu came close to a spectacular goal as he cut inside Morpeth sub Damen Mullen before curling an angled shot just wide of Dryden’s far post, although it must be said the keeper probably had it covered.

Despite having plenty of posession the Bulls struggled to put the Morpeth goal under any meaningful pressure.

Although they were grateful for Damen Mullen’s instinctive defending as he flicked a Bundu header over the bar.

It was game over in the first of four minutes added on for injury time.

Highwaymen substitute Shaun Bell raced through on goal and his shot took a deflection and creeped past the despairing dive of Horsell to set off frenzied celebrations from the North East contingent.

And they were repeated just minutes later when referee Stuart Atwell blew the full time whistle and sent the FA Vase back to the North East for the seventh time in eight years.

Mission impossible made very possible by Morpeth Town.

Hereford FC (4-3-3): Horsell, Oates, Edwards (c), Purdie, Green, Birch, Haysham, Symons, Willets (Mills , Tumelty (Bundu 54), Grant

Subs: Summers, Bonella, Staley

Goals: Purdie 1

Morpeth Town (4-3-3): Dryden, Forster, Novak, Sayer, Swailes, Hall, Taylor (Mullen 78), Graydon (c), Carr, Chilton (Anderson 68), Fry

Subs: Pearson, Bell, Mullen, Harrison

Goals: Swailes 34, Carr 46, Taylor 59

Referee: Stuart Attwell
Assistant Referees: Antony Coggins, James Mainwaring

Report: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)

Images: www.actionimages.com

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