Dale Pearson’s 23rd goal of the season was enough to take Consett through to the FA Vase 4th Round as they edged through 1-0 against a dogged Wythenshawe Town side. The visitors came and parked the bus, defending in numbers and resorting to timewasting tactics from the start in an effort to frustrate their hosts.
Consett manager Terry Mitchell kept faith with the same starting XI who had drawn at Wythenshawe seven days previously, which meant returning skipper Arjun Purewal had to be content with a place on the bench. Wythenshawe had three players suspended from the first game, including their goalscorer Brad Byrne.
The fact he played in that game in the first place was an extremely contentious issue, as, having already picked up two yellow cards in the competition, he should have been suspended. For some reason he played, scored, and was booked again.
An appeal to the FA eventually saw them find Wythenshawe guilty of fielding a player under suspension, but instead of expelling them from the competition and awarding the tie to Consett, the FA decreed – on Friday afternoon, just 24 hours before the replay was due to take place – that the game be replayed, at Consett, but was not a replay. Confused? Not as much as we were.
It became obvious from the first whistle that only one team intended to play football. The Wythenshawe manager’s pre-match declaration that he would be fielding an attacking line-up, despite being depleted due to suspensions, injuries and players being cup-tied, proved to be empty words.
The visitors played five at the back, which often became six, and at corners Consett faced a wall of blue shirts, with nine visiting players in the six-yard box. Unsurprisingly, chances were few and far between in the first half, even though the home side had a stiff wind at their back.
The first came on 12 minutes, when good work by Jermaine Metz and Ali Alshabeeb set up Luke Carr, but his shot from the edge of the box fizzed just wide.
Wythenshawe’s first opportunity was 25 minutes into the game, when left-back Jerome Wright burst through, but Consett keeper Kyle Hayes pulled off an excellent save, beating the ball out. It was a warning that although the visitors’ priority was defence, they posed a danger on the break.
On 27 minutes Calvin Smith came close to adding to his 13 goals for the season when the wind caught his cross and took it beyond the keeper, who was relieved to see it bounce off the top of the crossbar and out.
Consett suffered a setback on 32 minutes when Jake Orrell, one of their most creative players, limped off. The home side signalled their attacking intent when, instead of bringing on a like-for-like midfielder, introduced an extra forward in Andrei-Vasile Ardelean.
As half-time approached Consett had their best two chances so far. First, visiting keeper Callum Jakovlevs got down superbly to his right to get a strong hand to Darren Holden’s low drive. Then, in added time, Smith’s goalbound header from a corner was cleared off the line by Max Lewens at the back post.
Half-time: Consett 0 Wythenshawe Town 0
The start of the second half followed the same pattern as the first, with Consett dominating possession and Wythenshawe content to sit deep and soak up pressure. This time they had a strengthening wind at their back, which meant Consett had to be wary not just of being caught by a counter-attack, but also of conceding too many set pieces.
Just before the hour Alshabeeb had the first real chance of the half, but saw his shot deflected just wide for a corner. Ten minutes later he had a glorious chance to break the deadlock when a hooked pass by Dale Pearson sent him clear, but Jakovlevs stood up well to save.
A minute later centre-back Jan Palinkas had the chance to give the visitors the lead in a rare foray upfield, but glanced his header from a left-wing corner wide. Otherwise it was Consett doing all the attacking, as Wythenshawe edged closer to forcing the extra time they wanted. Matty Slocombe saw a shot blocked, Smith fired his follow-up wide, and Pearson hit an effort from the edge of the box which just cleared the bar.
The winning came goal in the 80th minute when Carr’s corner from the left was only half-cleared, and Dale Pearson curled a tremendous strike beyond the keeper from 20 yards. Wythenshawe claim the corner should have been a goal kick, and that the corner hit a Consett arm on the way across, but the referee thought otherwise, and the Steelmen celebrated wildly, on and off the field.
The last 10 minutes passed without further incident, and the slender but well-deserved win means Consett will be at home to Leicestershire side Lutterworth Town in the 4th Round on Saturday 11 January.
MATCH REPORT & PICTURES: GARY WELFORD
CONSETT: 1 Kyle Hayes, 2 Jermaine Metz, 3 Darren Holden, 4 Matty Slocombe, 5 Nick Allen (sub Arjun Purewal 88), 6 Ross Wilkinson, 7 Jake Orrell (sub Andrei-Vasile Ardelean 32), 8 Calvin Smith (sub Max Russell 84), 9 Dale Pearson, 10 Luke Carr (captain), 11 Ali Alshabeeb. Subs Not Used: Ethan Bridge (GK), Simon Jakab, Thomas Mcaloon, Michael Brown.
WYTHENSHAWE TOWN: 1 Callum Jakovlevs, 2 Connor Brotherton, 3 Jerome Wright, 4 Scott Percival, 5 Jan Palinkas, 6 Matthew Roberts, 7 Luke Monaghan, 8 Dominic Smalley (captain), 9 Liam Crellin-Myers, 10 Jordan Burton, 11 Max Lewens (sub Matthew Wilson 79). Subs not used: Mason Mostyn (GK), Ashley Leather.