Hullbridge Sports FC 3-2 Wembley FC (Buildbase FA Vase 2nd Round)
It was always going to be full of emotion, not just because Hullbridge love the FAVase, but because two days earlier the heart and soul had been ripped out of the side when Rob Hodgson and Aaron Hunwicks told the team that the FA Vase game would be their last game in charge. Aaron was to depart straight after the game leaving the club for good and Rob was to stay on to review his options. If this wasn’t a rallying cry for a performance, I don’t know what was and the boys showed heart, spirit and the desire not to give up.
Hullbridge love the FA Vase and the extra bond meant this was a must win game and you couldn’t write the script. The ‘Bridge Boys’ meant business from the start and it only took 11 minutes for Sports to have a go on the Wembley goal, as Sam Taylor crossed to find Charlie Buffin in the box, but Keira Karamoko in the Wembley goal got down low to block the shot. This was a recipe for success as on 24 minutes it was a Sam Taylor cross that was headed back across goal for Charlie Buffin to slot home and put the ‘Bridge Boys’ in the lead.
The lead almost disappeared in a flash as 3 minutes later Jonathan Iley for Wembley had a chance to score with an open goal, but Aaron Hunwicks got back and put his body in the way to block the shot with the support of Sports keeper Jamie Merralls. With it being end to end physical stuff Jimmy Cox had a double chance to put Sports two up, but Karamoko in the Wembley goal made a double save. Four minutes in to extra time in the first half the caldron boiled over and an on pitch free for all left Tom Ranger and keeper Jamie Merralls with yellow cards to go with two Wembley players, so the half time whistle couldn’t come quick enough!
As in previous weeks, the break seems to lose Sports’ focus and Wembley had all the play forcing Hullbridge to be camped out in their own half. The pressure was eventually going to pay off and on 65 minutes Zaied Sabti with the help of a couple of slip up in the defence meant it was a Wembley tap in to equalise.
On 77 minutes Hullbridge had a stroke of luck when a cross came in to the Wembley box and a mix up meant Wembley put the ball in their own goal to give Sports a 2-1 lead. On 82 minutes the game flipped again as a Wembley ball played over the top meant Jamie Merralls in the Hullbridge goal had to come out and he was alleged to have made contact with the advancing Wembley player and a penalty was awarded. Things were still to get worse for Hullbridge as Merralls received his second yellow card and was forced to leave the field. Sports had Lewis Catling on the bench, so replaced keeper for keeper, but were now down to ten men. Wembley sent Lewis Catling the wrong way from the spot and equalise on 86 minutes to make it 2-2 and potentially send the tie to extra time.
The drama wasn’t over as on 90+2 minutes a fantastic cross by Damo for Sports was met by Jimmy Cox at the far post, who headed home for Hullbridge and the party started. Sports shut up shop for the remaining 3 minutes and it was all over and on to the Third Round Proper!
Hullbridge had to dig deep with 10 men against a side riding high in their own league and an excellent footballing side. What a fantastic finale to the Hodgson & Hunwicks reign at Lower Road and you could tell the never say die attitude came out for the gaffer and his number two, in this very special cup competition. There was a really nice touch as the Hullbridge player stood in two lines by the tunnel to clap off Rob Hodgson and Aaron Hunwicks with the fans who were waiting to thank the boys for a fantastic performance. The sadness of the announcement was forgotten as the Sports lads celebrated two great guys who will go down in Hullbridge history as well as a very special performance.
Report/Photo by Neil Hunwicks @ABridgeTooFar16