Northwood 3  Heybridge Swifts 3
Heybridge won 5-4 on penalties

Saturday 17th October 2020


1 Hafed Al-Droubi    
2 Michael Panford    
3 Jaden Sharman    
4 Sukru Can Yildiz (41m)    
5 Dave Thomas (c) (23m)    
6 Ryan Esprit    
7 Excel Muhemba    
8 Marcelo Graca    
9 Devonte Totesaut    
10 Yiannis Constantinou    
11 Baback Dehghani (46m)    
12 Tyla Stuart    
14 Andre Da Costa    
15 Aaron Morgan (46m)    
16 Ryan Phillips (23m)    
17 Daryl Bryan-Samuels (41m)    

Jacob Marsden, Archie McFadden, Kyan Gulliver, Harry Norman, Isaac Nkosi, Jack Humphrey, Ernest Okoh (Joe Debell 85m), George Craddock, Andrew Fennell (Al-Hafeez Sanusi 89m), Jack Adlington-Pile, Emmanuel Osei-Owusu


Northwood staged a remarkable second-half revival to claw back a three goal deficit, but eventually came up short in their third penalty shootout of the season as their Isthmian North opponents progressed to the next round on a dramatic afternoon at the Fenton Civil Engineering Stadium.

Woods line-up was much-changed from the disappointing midweek defeat to Ashford Town, with manager Rob Ursell choosing to revert to a flat back four as he handed full debuts to right-back Michael Panford and centre-back Sukru Can Yildiz, who partnered Dave Thomas in the heart of defence in the  absence of Reece Yorke. Midfielder Marcelo Graca returned following his recovery from injury while there was a familiar face in Yiannis Constantinou who was given the number 10 shirt following his return from Potters Bar Town. And there was a new look to the frontline as Excel Muhemba and Baback Dehghani lined up either side of Devonte Totesaut.

Northwood settled well and they created the first chance of the afternoon as a neat through-ball from Constantinou played in Muhemba but Heybridge goalkeeper Jacob Marsden got the slightest of touches to deflect the shot wide of the upright. And the Swifts’ lively winger Emmanuel Osei-Owusu, who was a constant threat all afternoon, had his first opportunity as he broke clear of the Woods rear-guard but goalkeeper Hafed Al-Droubi was quickly off his line to smother the shot.

After Woods had failed to capitalise with a Constantinou free-kick on the edge of the Heybridge box which was gathered by Marsden, the visitors created a couple of chances with Thomas making a timely block to a George Craddock effort while Al-Droubi dealt with an Ernest Okoh snapshot. However, Northwood went close once more as Muhemba combined with Totesaut with the shot being blocked before Ryan Esprit shot narrowly wide.

Woods suffered a blow on 22 minutes as they lost skipper Thomas who was unable to continue after tweaking his knee, Ryan Phillips coming on to replace him in central defence. And the tie was turned on its head when the hosts conceded three goals in 16 minutes; Osei-Owusu’s header from a corner finding the net via the upright and the head of Al-Droubi before Andrew Fennell scored a brace as he punished naïve defending from Northwood.

Woods made  a change before the break with Daryl Bryan-Samuels replacing Yildiz in defence and they weren’t far away from reducing the arrears before the half-time break as Panford  saw his header deflect wide as he latched onto a Phillips free-kick to the far post.

Experienced striker Aaron Morgan was introduced for Dehghani at the start of the second half for his first appearance after completing his suspension for the sending-off against FC Romania and the Northwood faithful were just hoping that Woods could retrieve some pride after the first period humiliation.

And after Al-Droubi had dealt with a couple of long range efforts from Fennell and Jack Adlington-Pile, Woods began to show they might be capable of a recovery as they launched a series of attacks; Muhemba getting the better of left-back Kyan Gulliver before sending in a low cross which found Totesaut whose shot was deflected wide before Morgan linked up with Muhemba who presented the ball to Constantinou but he miscued from the edge of the box.

Northwood were given a scare as Okoh shot into the side-netting but the hosts were soon back on the front foot as Morgan played in Graca whose shot unfortunately cleared the Heybridge crossbar. But Graca wasn’t to be denied as he pulled a goal back with a deflected shot which flew over Marsden to give Woods a glimmer of hope on 73 minutes.

Osei-Owusu might have put the contest to bed had he put the finishing touch to a mazy run and Northwood made Heybridge pay with more good work from the rejuvenated Muhemba who pulled the ball back to Totesaut on the edge of the box, the latter turning smartly before sending an unerring shot beyond Marsden to bring Woods right back into the tie with 11 minutes left on the clock.

The Swifts made a couple of substitutions as they looked to shore things up but with clock moving into the third minute of added time, Northwood won a free kick in front of their dugout which was sent into the box by Phillips and was met by the irrepressible Al-Droubi, up for the last gasp set-play, who directed his header into the bottom corner to send Woods fans delirious.

There was still time for Northwood to almost complete the unexpected turnaround as Constantinou had a shot blocked and Panford tried to stab home the rebound, but to no avail. And after Woods had to see out the final seconds a man short after losing Muhemba to a leg injury after he came off second best in a heavy collision, it was onto penalties once again.

Al Droubi showed his penalty saving prowess once more with a save after Woods had missed their first penalty before the shootout moved into sudden death. Both keepers produced another save apiece before the unfortunate Graca fired over for Woods giving Harry Norman the chance to win it for the Swifts and he duly obliged to cap an enthralling afternoon of cup football.

REPORT by Robin Piper
PHOTOS by James Brown