Street 3 - 2 Bradford Town (AET)
Les Phillips Cup First Round
Friday 17th November 2017
Anyone who witnessed Friday night's epic and who does not feel for Bradford Town must surely have a heart of concrete as they conceded an extra-time winner at almost 10.30pm having played 90 minutes with ten men following a sending off and fighting back from 2-0 down with an equaliser in injury-time writes Kerry Miller.
It was in truth one of the more surreal games that the Tannery can have staged in its 51 year history and one which happily debunks the theory that cup football is dead.
Both sides went at it from the start and, as befits two sides in the top four of the Premier Division, put on a classic for the more than healthy crowd of 201, which could well have been more had it not been for Wells Carnival a few miles up the road.
The Wiltshire side were playing their third cup game in six days, having heroically won in the FA Vase at Buckland Athletic on Saturday and then lost after extra-time at Westbury United in the Wiltshire Senior Cup just two days ago and for long periods of the game it showed, as they were out passed by a Street side who look to have found the form and consistency which will take them close to the title next May.
The massed ranks of Street's U7 and U8 teams enjoyed a noisy kick about before the game then formed a guard of honour for the sides and were still funnelling off the pitch when Craig Herrod slung over a cross which Josh Wadham nodded wide when free six yards out with no more than 15 seconds on the clock. It set the standard for the night as Street missed more than a dozen chances and appeared to declare with 20 minutes to go which could have proven fatal but for substitute Harry Foster's late intervention.
Bradford soaked up the early pressure and Martin Lenihan and Will Hailston combined for Ashton Shanley to drag his shot wide from distance but Street roared back and Jake Mawford's looping header beat Town keeper Charlie Phillips only to come back off the post – the first of three visits to the woodwork during the two hours of non stop action.
Herrod then almost took advantage of a defensive error but was denied by Phillips who pushed his dipping shot onto the bar only for Wadham to miss with the rebound. The visitors were struggling to contain the Street attack which looked capable of scoring at every visit but occasionally escaped and were dangerous themselves with Haliston and Dan Cottle exchanging passes for the former's shot to be parried by Tom Punchard out to Sam Jordan, who could not quite convert.
Ross McErlain then volleyed over and Mawford did likewise from a bad error at the back, but the chances were being spurned at an alarming rate which gave Bradford hope, only for a wild tackle from Cottle on Matt Hurley to earn him a straight red card on the half hour from referee Colin Hubbard. Street sensed the game was theirs and after Wadham had spurned another chance they struck with two goals in injury time with many having reached the bar for a swift one and missed them both. Another error allowed Herrod to volley back for Steve Murray to slide in the first from two yards, then seconds later Wadham fired over a wicked cross which Murray converted again from close range to bring a more realistic look to the scoreline.
Bradford boss Danny Greaves threw on substitutes at the break and his side were again under the cosh as Murray missed from 15 yards but Street were also forced to regroup when Lewis Hogg limped off with what looked like a hamstring problem. Town put together a fine move with subs Karim Rendall and Rick Davis combining but missing the target and that looked to be it as their impressive fitness levels began to visibly drain until Street handed them an unlikely lifeline out of the blue. Rendall slung over a hopeful cross which was well wide of the target but Lewis Tasker somehow managed to handle it in the area and Lenihan slammed in the spot kick to make it 2-1 with around 15 minutes left.
By then Street had replaced Murray and had effectively eased up but worse was to come as Harrod set up substitute Dave O'Hare who rattled the crossbar from almost under it and it was almost inevitable, having missed an array of chances, that Street should gift Bradford an equaliser deep into injury-time. Rendall was given the ball inside the home half and he found Lenihan who was not going to miss as he beat Punchard, who had had precious little to do that half.
With some having already left the ground and others yet to be fished out of the bar the crowd dwindled briefly with many of the tots from the U7 and U8s well past bed time but extra-time brought more drama. Mawford volleyed wide for Street inside 20 seconds before at the other end Rickie Scott had his shot saved by Punchard. The pitch was wide open as legs began to give way and Phillips kept out a strike from O'Hare before Mawford blazed wildly over once again. Street were determined to close out the game as Herrod, McErlain, Harry Foster and O'Hare again all missed but Bradford somehow found some final dregs of energy and Rendall and Davis both went on solo runs which could easily have won the game. As penalties loomed large Mawford's cross found Foster whose header was tipped over by Phillips only for the game to have one final cruel twist.
Josh Wadham's lunging tackle was belatedly punished by a yellow card which was also shown to Foster for his part in a minor fracas and it was brutally ironic when Wadham escaped down the right and threw in a cross which was converted on the far post by Foster at very nearly half past ten to finally put the game to bed.
It was desperately hard on Bradford but they at least now have an eight day break before they travel to Hallen for a league game and they can also look forward to an FA Vase home tie with Wessex League student side Team Solent, who surprisingly beat Peninsula League champions Tavistock in their rearranged fixture in the week.
Street can also put their feet up for eight days until they entertain Clevedon Town in the league as they try to consolidate their six point lead.