Recent new signing Gary King made a dream debut for the Tulips on Tuesday, scoring both goals to secure victory at a windswept Ely, and the team’s passage to the next stage of the Carlsberg FA Vase competition, writes Ray Tucker.
The prize for the Tulips’ victory is a very attractive Fifth Round (last-16) encounter with Channel Islanders Guernsey FC at the Sir Halley Stewart Field on Saturday 9th February.
On a soggy Ely City pitch, in terribly blustery conditions with the wind blowing straight down the length of the ground and against a big and powerful home side, the game was never destined to be an attractive one. But the Tulips battled gamely throughout to gain the ultimate reward. And following an epic battle the look on the beaming face of manager Pat Rayment said it all: “This has been, and is, a big, big day for the football club. A great performance and result”, he said.
The Tulips had to come from behind to achieve their success. As expected the home side took every opportunity to pump the ball into the Tulips’ area. Even goalkeeper and Robins' captain Lee Pacey was taking all free-kicks from his half of the pitch.
As early as the eighth minute the dangerous Austen Diaper shaved Lee Drury’s crossbar with a fierce volley. Three minutes later the striker, on the far side of the area, connected beautifully with a low cross by Andrew Claydon to give Drury no chance with a volley that flashed inches inside a post to open the scoring.
But the Tulips dug in with Miles Chamberlain and Glen Fuff working tirelessly in the heart of defence to weather the storm and work their way into the game.
Midway through the half Dan Cotton, who put in another good shift, whipped the ball on to TJ Nightingale who forced an excellent fingertip save from Robins' ‘keeper, Pacey.
The scores were levelled on 31 minutes. Skipper Lee Canonville was hauled down as he ventured into the Ely area and Gary King stepped up to open his club account with a well taken penalty, low into the corner (photo, below). Less than a minute later the Tulips were denied an even more blatant penalty when Danny Steadman was sent sprawling in the Ely box but their howls of derision at the ref's nonchalance fell on deaf ears.
Spalding 'keeper, Lee Drury, kept the Tulips in the game, being equal to Chadwick’s effort and moments later, on 35 minutes, the Tulips were ahead. King did superbly to gain possession of Canoville’s through pass, move into the penalty-area and neatly chip the ball over an onrushing Pacey.
Facing the strong wind after the interval the Tulips survived a number of close shaves as Ely battled valiantly to pull back the deficit. Drury earned his keep with a fine save at full stretch to turn a Claydon drive away for a corner. Shortly afterwards the same player drove inches wide of the target. Two further chances saw the home team denied by goalline clearances from resolute Tulips defence.
No matter how hard Ely huffed & puffed, the Tulips remained cool under pressure and also had their moments in front of goal. Dan Steadman shot just over the bar from 20 yards after being put into space by Dan Cotton.
Ten minutes from normal time Nightingale was denied by the legs of ‘keeper Pacey and within minutes looked certain to extend the Tulips’ lead when he broke free from the halfway line and found himself in a one-on-one situation with the ‘keeper. Agonisingly he was once again denied as Pacey proved himself up to the task.
All out end-to-end action continued during a tense and seemingly endless five minutes of added time, but it was the Tulips who finally took the plaudits and can now look forward to the visit of Guernsey on Saturday week.
Team: Lee Drury, Lee Canoville, Josh Freeman (Dan Hussey, 75 mins), Miles Chamberlain, Glen Fuff, Dan Steadman, Dan Cotton, Chris Hall, Luke Kennedy, TJ Nightingale, Gary King. Subs (not used): Tony Battersby, Kieron Doherty, Jay Smedley, Jordan McCready.
Tulips' Man of the Match: Gary King