It has been the run that has had everything from drama to controversy and everywhere inbetween but now Morpeth Town will end their FA Vase heroics on the grandest stage English football has to offer.




A late, late winner from Luke Carr – or was it Keith Graydon? – set off scenes of unbridled joy inside a packed out Craik Park, as the picturesque ground in a little corner of Northumberland witnessed a moment of history for the Highwaymen.

Whoever scored the winner means little in all honesty, but what it does mean is that Morpeth Town will step out at Wembley for the first time in their history on 22nd May.

Their win, a deserved win at that, also means that the Northern League continues its fine record of having a team in the FA Vase Final for the eighth year running.

Intriguingly if Town manager Nick Gray wants an omen, only once has the Vase failed to make the trip back to the North East.

And what of Gray?

Stood on the touchline, flittering between a picture of calmness to an explosion of passion on a regular basis throughout an intense ninety minutes.

Post-match he was serene as he reflected on a job well done, although he admitted that his side could have made it easier for themselves.

He said “It is good for the club but as a manager and for the players, it is horrendous to go through that. I don’t know who scored it, to be honest I don’t care.

“I just saw the ball hit the back of the net, I looked at the linesman and made sure it wasn’t offside and there it is, we’ve got there.

“It’s cruel for them, to lost it like that but over the two legs I think we deserved it”10723 VampT Final 200x200

Deserve it they did.

After throwing away a two goal first-leg lead the Highwaymen made the best possible start, as within the first five minutes they took the lead.

Winger Sean Taylor was found on the edge of the Bowers and Pitsea area and unleashed an unstoppable half volley that arrowed through a sea of bodies and nestled inside the far post.

Job done? Not quite!

It could and should have been so much easier for the hosts, as they squandered several chances. Striker Michael Chilton headed over, Ben Sayer smashed an angled shot well over the bar and Taylor almost doubled his own tally as he fired wide.

Their failure to add a second was to cost them.

With their first chance of the game Bowers and Pitsea levelled.

A long ball into the Highwaymen area caused issues in the home defence, with the ball taking two deflections before kindly falling to the impressive Lewis Manor.

He made no mistake and as the hosts defenders waited for an offside flag that never came, Manor rolled the ball past the helpless Karl Dryden and sent the sides into the interval on level terms on the day and in the tie as a whole.

Buoyed by their leveller the visitors looked bright at the start of the second half and looked more likely to take the lead in the tie for the first time.

Manor was at the heart of everything good Bowers and Pitsea had to offer, as he gave his team mates an outlet and hassled and harried the Morpeth backline.

Seven minutes after the restart Manor’s lay-off found James Stevens and he stung the palms of Dryden, as the hosts keeper did well the beat away a vicious effort from twenty yards.

Stevens and Manor linked again with twenty minutes remaining.

This time it was the latter with the chance, as he rose to meet a Stevens corner but could only head wide of the far post, needing to make a firmer connection rather than the flicked effort he produced.

The hosts riposte was a rising shot from Jordan Fry that easily cleared the crossbar and substitute Dale Pearson’s drive from the edge of the box that was comfortable for Martyn Guest in the Bowers and Pitsea goal.

There was a blow for the visitors as Ross Adams was shown a second yellow card or a foul on Highwaymen captain Graydon.

morpeth 2The much-criticised pitch was holding up well, even though part of it resembled one of Northumberland’s many beaches.

That, as Gray revealed, was in no small part down to the commitment of his chairman Ken Beattie.

“First and foremost I am delighted for my chairman.

“Nobody, at any level of football deserves it more than Ken Beattie for what he does for this club. He was here all of last night, he slept in his car and made sure the pitch was ready this morning”

One of those sandy patches came into play with two minutes remaining as a through ball bobbled over the sand and sent Bowers and Pitsea substitute Tom Hine in on goal.

He beat the onrushing Dryden to the ball and skipped past the keeper but could only find the outside of the near post from an ever-increasing angle.

That was to be that for the visitors, with the miss draining them of energy and enthusing their hosts.

That enthusiasm spilled over when the winner came in the third minute of injury time.

As nerves and tension enveloped Craik Park, Graydon swung a cross in from the left that was seemingly met with the deftest of flicks from Luke Carr.

The ball found its way into the net and those nerves dissipitated and were replaced by euphoria.

The final whistle brought home supporters on to the pitch, as they celebrated with their heroes.

The visitors, to their credit, were gracious in defeat, despite their obvious heartache.

Now for the victors is a Wembley date with Hereford.

When the opinion that Morpeth go into the tie as underdogs was offered to Gray, the Town manager gave a simple answer by saying “who cares?”

He continued “It’s one game, we will be classed as underdogs but who cares, it doesn’t bother us.

“Hereford are a decent side but we are a decent side and we have a lot of games to play before that.

“We have twenty one players available, they’ll all get their chance and we want them to have an opportunity to be in that sixteen at Wembley.

It’ll be a great day”

Maybe Gray should have said another great day, with a Wembley trip yet another remarkable occasion on a wonderful run.

Morpeth Town (4-3-3): Dryden, Forster, Novak, Sayer, Swailes, Hall, Taylor, Graydon(c), Carr, Chilton, Fry Subs: Pearson, Bell, McAndrew, Hiftle, Harrison

Goalscorers: Taylor 4, Carr 90+3

Bowers and Pitsea (4-3-3): Quest, Pethers, Durrant, Wilson, Waters, Adams, Russell, Stevens, Manor, Sendall, Hilton Subs: Kee, Hine, Salmon, Bryan, Gardener

Goalscorers: Manor 42

Attendence: 1,256

Referee: Ross Joyce

Non-League Daily Man of the Match: Keith Graydon (Morpeth Town)

Report: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)

Tickets are now on sale for Non-League Finals Day! Morpeth Town meet Hereford FC in the FA Vase Final and National League clubs FC Halifax Town and Grimsby Town face each other in the FA Trophy Final.

That all takes place at Wembley Stadium on Sunday 22nd May and you buy tickets via the FA website here

10723 VampT Final TOS Email Footer 468x60


Follow us on Twitter

Contact Us

Editor: Chris Brookes
t: 0191 442 1001
e: cbrookes@balticpublications.co.uk
HYPoint, Saltmeadows Road, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear. NE8 3DA

Get in touch

1 + 2 =

© 2021 Baltic Publications Limited