WINCHESTER CITY   Wednesday 2nd March 2016   NORTHWOOD FC

Red Insure League Cup fourth round

  Winchester City 0  Northwood 1   


Nicholas 26

Team line-up  
  Team line-up
1 Brendan Norris     1 Berkley Laurencin
2 Mick Hubbard     2 Georges Ehui
3 Dan King     3 Andy Lomas
4 Jamie Barron     4 Steve Brown ©
5 Jamie Thoroughgood     5 James Budden
6 Jamie Tomasso     6 George Nicholas
7 Craig Feeney     7 Joakim Ehui
8 George Short     8 James Burgess
9 Zach Glasspool (82m)     9 Niko Muir
10 Warren Bentley ©     10 Louis Stead
11 Matt Benham (46m)     11 Rob Hastings
Substitutes     Substitutes
12 Sam Burt     12 Alex Nolan
14 Adam Roberts (46m)     14 Bayley Brown
15 Brad Elkins     15 Myles Stephenson
16 Rhian Jima-Otero (82m)     16 Mark Burgess
17 Michael Miller     17 Simon Huggett
      Referee: Alex Blake; Assistants: James Welsh & Andrew Pearce      
  REPORT by Alan Evans  




George Nicholas popped up with his first goal in seven months to earn the Woods a place in the semi-final of the Red Insure Southern League Cup with this narrow but well-deserved victory at high-flying Winchester City. The home side, promoted from the Wessex League as runners-up last season, had only been knocked off the top of the South & West Division with a 2-1 defeat at Banbury United at the weekend and boasted the League’s best goalscoring record (79 in 30 games) as well as the top goalscorer in Warren Bentley with 34 to his tally already this season.

The Citizens had also lost just twice at the Denplan Stadium all season, once in the League to Didcot Town, the side who knocked Northwood out of the FA Cup and to Southern Premier side Weymouth in the FA Trophy. So the Woods five-month unbeaten away record was really being put to the test and it was good that Manager Mark Burgess was able to field a starting line-up that was unchanged from the one that had won at Bedford Town at the weekend as well as a subs bench that could welcome back Myles Stephenson after suspension, though Max Holland was ruled out with hamstring trouble.

The pitch had recovered well from a morning downpour and the game began with the Woods quickly showing that they were up for a battle by being quick to shut down space and keep close tabs on ace striker Bentley. Winchester did record the first shot at goal after just four minutes but Jamie Barron’s strike flew well over the bar. But the Woods soon began to threaten with some direct running. Joakim Ehui got forward well down the left and got his shot on target but straight at goalkeeper Brendon Norris and then George Nicholas made progress down the middle before dragging his shot wide.

And the pressure continued and Northwood grabbed a decisive goal on 26 minutes. Andy Lomas swung in a corner which was half-cleared to the right side of the box where Nicholas made a bit of space before firing a shot across goal which crashed in off the far post. It was the midfielder’s first goal since the end of August when he netted at Aylesbury United in the FA Cup. The home side looked for a way back into the game before half-time and Bentley did find a little space to get a shot on target but Berkley Laurencin was down quickly to save, while a crisp strike from Craig Feeney flew wide.

In between this Steve Brown got his head to a Louis Stead corner but it was blocked a few yards from the line and just before the break Nicholas tried his luck again but this time his shot climbed over the crossbar.
Winchester made a half-time substitution, replacing Matt Benham with Adam Roberts and in the very first minute a ball was stabbed forward and a slip from Brown saw Zach Glasspool have half a chance in front of goal but Laurencin was out quickly to smother his effort and the ball was cleared.

On 53 minutes some clever link up play between Roberts and Glasspool created a chance for Bentley and he tried to find room to get a shot away but was crowded out by some solid Woods defending. It was the home side’s best spell and a deep cross was headed down by Glasspool to George Short whose effort was well blocked by James Burgess. Laurencin also took a long-range strike from Barron comfortably.

Northwood were more reliant on the break by now and one good ball put Joakim Ehui in on goal but a poor touch saw it run away from him and Norris collected. One speculative strike looped up and forced Laurencin into pushing the ball to safety as it dropped towards goal but the Woods were coping well and after 67 minutes Lomas got forward well with a long drive forward and shot that saw Norris dive to his left to keep it out.

Niko Muir slipped a good ball through to Nicholas but again his shot was wayward and then a foul on Rob Hastings just outside the box gave Louis Stead a chance from the free-kick but he struck it straight at the defensive wall. But time was running out for Winchester. Only one goal was needed to take the tie into a penalty shoot-out and they pushed hard in the closing stages. A cross from Mick Hubbard saw substitute Rhian Jima-Otero flick a header well wide and then Laurencin showed a safe pair of hands at his near post to keep out a cross which was whipped in.

Finally, in the fourth minute of stoppage-time, a neat cross caused the Woods real problems as the ball flashed across the six-yard box but with three Winchester players in with a chance of meeting it, none of them committed enough and the ball rebounded wide of the post.

The final whistle followed moments later and the Woods could celebrate a fine performance that sees the side into the semi-final for the first-ever time. There isn’t too much time to reflect on that feat though as that tie is now scheduled for next Tuesday night where Welsh side Merthyr Town will be visiting Northwood Park looking for a place in a two-legged final against Cambridge City. Like Cambridge City, Merthyr are an Evo-Stik League Southern Premier Division side and they currently sit in fifteenth place in their first season at that level since they reformed back in 2010 following the liquidation of Merthyr Tydfil FC. It should be another great cup night at Northwood on Tuesday.