FA Cup Preliminary Round: Yate Town 2 Cowes Sports 1
GIANT-KILLERS last season, Yate Town were in danger of becoming a notable scalp this time around until Ross Staley produced a piece of FA Cup magic to turn their tie around against Cowes Sports.
The 19-year-old from Thornbury scored his first senior competitive goal with a spectacular strike before Lewis Haldane hit the winner five minutes from time as the Bluebells came from behind to set up a meeting with Chippenham Town in the first qualifying round in two weeks.
Isle of Wight-based Cowes, who play two divisions below Yate in the Wessex League First Division, looked like they might cause an upset when they led for most of the match after danger-man Lee Davies, who had scored hat-tricks in his previous two games, struck in the seventh minute, but the home side recovered from a poor first-half display and their extra quality eventually shone through.
The Yate team was unrecognisable to the one that started their last FA Cup game against Cheltenham Town in the first round last year with Jake Cox the only survivor, although James Harmer and Josh Dempsey were named amongst the substitutes and captain Mike Bryant came off the bench on that memorable day at the Abbey Business Stadium.
Staley went close for Yate with a fierce drive that went narrowly over, but it was the opposite number 11 Davies who opened the scoring at the other end when he drilled the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards.
Right back Jake Cox was guilty of not closing the Cowes danger-man down quick enough, but he almost made amends two minutes later with a well-struck free kick from just outside the box which hit the top of the crossbar.
Miscommunication between goalkeeper Martin Horsell, who was starting only his second game for the club, and his defence caused some more nervy moments for Yate and they struggled to find any fluency going forward.
However, only a fine reaction save from Cowes stopper Ed Hatt prevented them from equalising two minutes before half-time after Staley fizzed in a cross from the left and Haldane was denied from point-blank range.
Harmer came on as a half time substitute to make his first appearance for the club since returning in the summer having received international clearance and he added some much-needed energy and urgency.
Yate began to exert great pressure, Staley having a shot blocked from a scramble in the box, Joe Chandler volleying wide and Ricky Hulbert heading into the side-netting.
The equaliser arrived when Staley found space in midfield to run forward before unleashing an unstoppable shot from 35 yards into the top corner of the net and his joy was plain to see with an acrobatic somersault to celebrate.
Cox had a shot turned around the post by Hatt after he was invited to cut into the box when his corner came back to him, but Yate ensured they did not need a replay to progress four minutes later.
Bradley Abraham threaded a lovely ball through to Mike Bryant, who squared the ball to Jake Jackson with an open goal in front of him. The substitute striker fluffed his lines but showed persistence to win the ball on the byline and lay it back to Haldane, whose scuffed shot from eight yards trickled in off the post.
Yate Town: Horsell, Cox, Felix (Harrison, 46), Chandler, Seery, Abraham, Lenihan (Harmer, 46), Bryant (c), Hulbert (Jackson, 68), Haldane, Staley. Subs not used: Meaker, Wimble, Rogers Dempsey.
Ref: Mr S Brown.
Gazette star man: Ross Staley - A constant threat going forward and scored a stunning goal.
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