In-form Boreham Wood headed into their Emirates FA Cup First Round clash with Notts County looking to secure the most famous victory in the club’s history.
But despite the National League side being outsiders, they boast a remarkable talent in striker Morgan Ferrier.
The Ladbrokes News team were back on the #VardyVerdict trail to watch Morgan, whose strength, pace and run of eight goals in 15 games heading into this fixture suggested he could be the next star striker to graduate from Non-League to the game’s highest levels.
And the 21-year-old has certainly impressed Wood supporters, with lifelong fan Brett Lewis impressed by the summer signing’s strength, work-ethic and instinctive finishing.
So, having returned from a brief lay-off with injury, could Ferrier find the net once again after a run of seven goals in as many games – and lead the Wood to an unforgettable giant-killing?
It’s fair to say the magic of the Emirates FA Cup has well and truly gripped the small town of Borehamwood. Their average crowd of just over 500 has swelled to 1,201 for the visit of the oldest Football League club, and there’s a swirl of noise as the teams trot out in the Hertfordshire rain.
The hosts show plenty of attacking intent from the start, with Anthony Jeffrey forcing a corner in the earliest exchanges, and it’s almost scrambled home for a perfect start. Wth Angelo Balanta and Ferrier also producing one neat ball after another, a home breakthrough looks likely.
And it eventually arrives on 30 minutes.
Ferrier is slipped through with a neat ball from Balanta, and the highly-rated hitman reacts superbly to slot home an inch-perfect opener across the frame of onrushing Magpies stopper Adam Collin.
Tea is spilled, and giant bear hugs are had among the small stands and tidy terraces of picturesque Meadow Park.
County roar back into life with Matt Tootle forcing a superb save from home stopper Grant Smith, who reacts with lightning-quick agility to tip the 26-year-old’s effort round the post. It’s the last big chance of the half, and we reach the break with the hosts deserving of their lead.
However, any suggestion the hosts will look to hang onto their narrow lead are dispelled as soon as we restart in the driving rain.
With less than five minutes of the second period underway, Bruno Andrade plays a neat, low cross to Balanta, and the classy Colombian takes several tidy touches before stroking home.
The home fans go wild. ‘Small Town, Big Dreams’ reads the banner pinned proudly to the West Stand, and it seems those dreams are on the verge of becoming a reality.
Alas, it doesn’t last for the hosts. Adam Campbell curls a sumptuous strike in from the left-flank to quieten the crowd just before the hour-mark, before the Wood make the mess of an excellent four-on-two breakaway which could – and should – have restored their two-goal lead.
In the end, it’s Campbell who rescues a draw for County, scrambling one home from a corner on 83 minutes, meaning these two will have to do it all again on November 15.
But despite the hosts’ surrender of the lead, BBC football correspondent Jonathan Legard tells us that Ferrier’s finishing and physicality reflect a player who has learned a great deal from youth experience at clubs like Arsenal and Watford.
It’s not rare that you see a player in Non-League whose talents seem to place them a cut or two above those around them – but it’s one thing looking impressive against sides at the same level, and quite another bossing a game against a Football League side.
The latter is exactly what Ferrier did against County, with his neat finish for the opening goal surrounded by superb one-touch passing, excellent ball-holding ability and an intelligent reading of the game.
As it is, injuries remain the only real question mark over the future prospects of a player who – at 21-years-old – will continue to hone his skills as he develops. Even the areas Morgan identifies as needing improvement, like his aerial ability, can be fixed – with the bustling striker having the required physicality.
Avoid injury and continue to work hard, and there’s no reason Ferrier can’t make the journey to playing at a big Football League club…and possibly further.
This article has been provided by Ladbrokes. As the Official Bookmaker of the FA, Ladbrokes News will be on the Emirates FA Cup trail throughout the 2016-17 season.