Woodbridge Town earned themselves £2,250 in prize money, after coming through an Extra Preliminary tie with Clapton that went to the wire. Going into the final ten minutes of the original tie, the Woodpeckers looked to be on their way out of the competition. But Callum Harvey and George Bowman notched the goals in the final eight minutes to earn the side a second bite of the cherry.
By Scott Lanza
But in many ways the comeback to earn the replay came with a sting in the tail. Woodbridge Town, based just outside of Ipswich, now faced a midweek replay at the famous Old Spotted Dog in East London – a mere 160 mile round trip. With players then unavailable due to holidays, work commitments and injuries meant the Suffolk-based club faced a few selection problems. Even manager Jamie Scales was unavailable for the replay, meaning that Assistant Manager Glenn Snell was handed that selection problem of who to play. The two leading scorers who helped the club claim the Thurlow Nunn Division One title were also out of the mix just to make the job that little bit harder.
The Woodpeckers took to the field with a makeshift team made up of an U18 making his debut, another player who had travelled down from Birmingham (returning back there after the game) and a lot of players who had to play out of position. And if that wasn’t bad enough Snell had no substitutes to call upon. What was already looking like a mountain to climb then became an ascent of Himalayan proportions when the Woodpeckers fell behind inside the opening minute from a Dylan Embago goal, which was able to head home a corner whilst unmarked. Snell admitted that at that point he was thinking ‘oh no here we go’. But the Woodbridge squad has been together for three years and whilst they might not have one of the biggest budgets, with the club only able to pay their players travel expenses, they do have in abundance is team spirit. Snell enthused about his players saying he and Jamie were delighted with their attitude, commitment and love of the club. ‘Our lads have a never say die attitude, which won us the League Title and Suffolk Senior Cup last season and ultimately it was that carried us through this game.”
Trailing 1-0 at half time, Snell told me he had to make some adjustments:
“I had to throw the dice, as Clapton had a very good defence and certainly one of the best we have come up against. So I put Taylor Southgate, who is usually a holding midfielder, upfront as he is 6’4” and I thought maybe he might be able to use his physical presence.”
Southgate had never played up front before, but Snell’s gamble came off because within two minutes of the re-start the he headed home the equaliser.
With no further goals, the game went to extra time, by which point they had a player off the field receiving treatment for a nose injury and then onto penalties, where the Woodpeckers had three of their usual penalty takers missing. But they did have one ace up their sleeve though – 18 year old keeper Alfie Stronge, who saved two penalties in the shootout , scoring one himself, booking Woodbridge Town’s Preliminary Round place in the process. A home tie against fellow Thurlow Nunn outfit Hadleigh United awaits them next. A fine reward for their Extra Preliminary Round endeavours and when this season’s FA Cup campaign is done and dusted it is quite likely that no team will have deserved their prize money as much as Woodbridge Town. What they did on Tuesday evening could make for a very good script for a football drama!