Faultless spot-kick display sends Witham through in the Velocity Cup
to face maldon in next round
Velocity Cup round one
Witham won 5-3 on penalties
Witham Town held their nerve with a faultless display from the penalty spot against Grays Athletic to book their place in the second round of the Velocity Cup.
There were chances for both sides over the initial 90 minutes, but normal time ended with neither able to break the deadlock and a penalty shoot-out required to deliver a winner.
It was an impeccable return by Witham from the spot that made sure they would progress as Sam Ashford, jack kemsley, L’Heureux Menga, Danny Norton and luke mallett were clinical in a 5-3 success.Grays had won the Bostik League division north clash 2-0 between the two Essex sides on the opening day of the season, but sat two places below their hosts – albeit with the same points tally – heading into the League Cup tie.Witham started with intent and made the early running in the game, with several balls forward piercing the Athletic defence and Grays keeper Clarke Bogarde having to be alert to nullify the danger.
Grays, meanwhile, struggled to threaten in the Witham half in the opening stages, but they did win a corner on ten minutes and that needed a Town body on the line to keep the tie goalless.
Witham’s progress was disrupted by a facial injury for Jack Isherwood that saw luke mallett introduced as an early substitute and it was Grays who started the stronger after Isherwood had received a period of treatment ahead of his withdrawal.They won a free-kick and an in-swinging effort required the head of Menga to clear the threatening ball into the Witham box.
With their tails now up, the visitors enjoyed greater possession and territory than they had seen before the hiatus and the main flow of play was towards the Witham goal.On 34 minutes Usman Adeniji broke clear of the home defence and it took a superbly-timed interception from Henry Fisher to deny the former Witham striker a shooting opportunity as Town just about made sure parity stayed intac That equilibrium was tested five minutes later, though, when a fortunate bounce of the ball off referee Christopher Horsman set up further Grays pressure on the home goal.
A scramble in the Town area ensued and after one shot was blocked on the line, an excellent save from Witham keeper Luca Collins was needed to keep the visitors out once more.In between, there were promising spells of pressure by Witham, but Bogarde wasn’t called on to make any saves as the half ended with the tie locked at 0-0.
After the break, it was Grays who looked sharper in the early exchanges and Collins made a superb flying save to keep out an effort by Jack Curtis after a strong run across the home box by Aron Gordon.
Barry Cogan then fired a low shot across the face of the home goal, but Witham looked to hit their visitors on the break and they went close on 57 minutes.Ashford drilled in a low shot from the right that Bogarde parried and Menga was just unable to connect with the loose ball as he charged in.
With neither side able to find the breakthrough, the play became stretched and with the Witham defence opened by a quick Grays break, Shomari Barnwell went close with a header that looped just over the bar.
As the action remained open, Ashford almost capitalised on an error by Bogarde, who had advanced out of his area but not made the clearance and the Witham winger rolled the loose ball goalwards only to see it go past the post.And there was another agonising moment for Ashford with four minutes remaining as he won a race with Grays’ Geoffrey Akonwo to the ball, before advancing and poking it just wide of the upright again.
It meant the game stayed locked at 0-0 after 90 minutes and it would take penalties to decide who progressed into the second round.
Witham Town: Luca Collins, Jack Isherwood (luke mallett 21), Henry Fisher, miguel nydam (Sam Owusu 74), George Powell, jack kemsley, Toni Paredes Garcia (Johnny Ashman 80), Danny Norton, L’Heureux Menga, Nathan Cook, Sam Ashford.
Substitutes not used: John Watson, liam whipps.
Referee: Christopher Horsman.