NORTHWOOD FC   Saturday 26th September 2015   DIDCOT TOWN FC

Emirates FA Cup Second Qualifying Round

  Northwood 1  Didcot Town 2   

Scorer: Murray 3

Dutton-Black 17, Learoyd 57

Team line-up  
  Team line-up
1 Berkley Laurencin     1 Leigh Bedwell
2 Omar Vassell     2 Jamie Heapy
3 Andy Lomas     3 James Organ
4 James Burgess (87m)     4 Andy Ballard
5 Steve Brown ©     5 Luke Carnell
6 Jon Munday     6 Adam Learoyd
7 Joakim Ehui (69m)     7 Marvin Martin
8 Louis Stead     8 Jack Longford (69m)
9 Niko Muir     9 Mark Janes
10 Michael Murray     10 Mark Francis (69m)
11 Rob Hastings (65m)     11 Josh Dutton-Black
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Perry Dicker (69m)     12 Matt Woodley (69m)
14 Myles Stephenson (87m)     14 Jack Powell (69m)
15 Max Holland (65m)     15 Ian Concannon
16 Liam Baker     16 -
17 Bayley Brown     17 -
18 Jermaine Heron     18 -
19 David Moran     19 Josh Gannon
      Referee: Dan Robathan; Assistants: Phil Evans & Jack Bloxham      
  REPORT by Alan Evans    PHOTOS by James Brown  


The Woods FA Cup dreams crashed and burned as Didcot Town came from behind to notch their first-ever win at Northwood Park and snatch a place in the next round. Northwood’s preparations were hit by the absence of the management team due to a long-standing, unavoidable clash of dates but they were again able to call upon the experience of former Watford midfielder Jamie Hand and coach Max Howell to cover in hope they could repeat their success at Aylesbury United a couple of rounds earlier.

On the playing front, the Woods were missing influential midfielder George Nicholas as he served the one-match ban handed out after a late second yellow-card in the previous tie against Harrow Borough but were otherwise at full-strength with Omar Vassell returning from working away for a couple of weeks. The visitors had some selection problems of their own as injury ruled out Jack Self, Jimmy Deabill and Lance Williams but were able to welcome back striker Mark Janes and Jack Longford.

And the Woods couldn’t have made a much better start as they took the lead after just three minutes. Joakim Ehui made inroads down the right flank, cut the ball back into the path of Michael Murray and the Woods top scorer hit a sweet half-volley from the edge of the area that flew past goalkeeper Leigh Bedwell for the opening goal. Northwood continued to dominate the early stages. Niko Muir found space for a shot but it was blocked by some solid defending and then a quick free-kick taken by Murray slipped Rob Hastings in on the right but his dangerous cross was just cut out for a corner by Andy Ballard.

But the pressure came to nothing more and the Railwaymen levelled the scores with their first effort on goal after 17 minutes. It came from the long throw of the experienced Ballard with the ball half-cleared to the edge of the box but then well-directed by the head of Josh Dutton-Black back into the net with unsighted goalkeeper Berkley Laurencin unable to get across to save. Once level, Didcot enjoyed their best spell of the match and a deep cross from Dutton-Black saw Adam Learoyd flick a header wide but a loose ball in the Didcot defence allowed Ehui a run at goal but he shot well over the bar.

The long throw of Ballard continued to cause occasional problems in the Woods defence and the next was again only half-cleared but this time Mark Francis fired a shot wide from the loose ball on 27 minutes. Northwood worked their way back on top, though, and looked to regain the lead in the final ten minutes of the half. Muir provided a good ball for Hastings who got in on goal but saw his strike saved at the near-post by Bedwell and then Ehui raced through again only to lack composure with a wild shot that flew well over the bar.

Just before the break it was the visitors who went close though as Dutton-Black worked hard to find space to get a good shot off and that wasn’t far wide of the target. But as the second half started it was the Woods back on the attack once again. Hastings tried his luck from distance but never looked likely to beat Bedwell who saved comfortably and then an excellent run and cross from Vassell was ideal but there was no-one able to really attack it on the edge of the six-yard box. Learoyd was booked for pulling back Hastings as he tried to get through the defence once again and from the resulting free-kick, Murray flighted it well to find Steve Brown at the far post but his header back across goal also failed to get the needed touch.

Suddenly Didcot found a surge forward that almost brought a goal as Dutton-Black poked a shot that was deflected only just wide by a block combination of Laurencin and Jon Munday. But from the corner, taken by Marvin Martin, Laurencin hesitated to come and collect which allowed Learoyd to rise above Munday to head home from just six yards.

The Woods were slow to respond and a shot from Janes hit Francis and went wide as the visitors looked to take the game away from Northwood and then came the first change as youngster Max Holland replaced Hastings on 64 minutes. He made an almost instant impact with a run that took him past two defenders and into the box but a covering defender prevented a shot at goal. Two minutes later, James Burgess came close to levelling the scores when he let fly from 25 yards but Bedwell did well to tip the ball onto the crossbar and over. Brown did well to meet Murray’s well-struck corner with a glancing header but again the ball flew just over the bar.

Didcot made little inroads up front but were always going to be dangerous from the aerial route and another long-throw saw another header flicked over the top. Perry Dicker replaced Ehui as the Woods looked to progress through the centre more and on 75 minutes Muir played a good ball that put Louis Stead through with just the ‘keeper to beat. That he did well but his shot also skidded the wrong side of the far post and another real chance of an equaliser had gone.

Bedwell then produced a good save to deny Stead as he got a volley on target but time was running out when the hero of the last round Myles Stephenson, was introduced for Burgess as the Woods went more all-out attack. And there was another great chance to level soon after this as Vassell burst forward again and into the box. He cut the ball back perfectly to find Murray but this time his strike lacked the accuracy of his earlier effort and the ball rose high and over the gaping goal.

The game moved into stoppage-time and another strike clearly hit an arm in the penalty-area but the Referee ruled that it was without intent and penalty claims were waved away before Didcot substitute Jack Powell had a late shot on a counter-attack saved by Laurencin.

It gave the Woods one last opportunity for an attack before the final whistle as Andy Lomas got forward well and whipped in a cross. Brown went up for the header along with the ‘keeper and the ball did bounce loose but it spun into the grateful hands of Bedwell rather than into the path of a Northwood forward and Didcot had held on.