Northwood 1  Slimbridge 1
Northwood won 4-2 on penalties

Saturday 12th September 2020


1 Hafed Al-Droubi    
2 Luke Jones (67m)    
3 Ryan Esprit    
4 Craig Carby (84m)    
5 Dave Thomas (c)    
6 Calvin Dickson (75m)    
7 Amin Belaid    
8 Charlie Kuehn    
9 Richard Ward    
10 Marcelo Graca    
11 George Isaac    
12 Leon Smith    
14 Jaden Sharman (67m)    
15 Ryan Phillips (75m)    
16 Haluna Masembe (84m)    
17 Radu Stefanoaica    
19 Devonte Totesaut    
20 Excel Muhemba    

Northwood survived the nail-biting drama of a penalty shoot out to overcome Gloucestershire outfit Slimbridge AFC and claim their place in the First Qualifying Round at a sun-drenched Fenton Civil Engineering Stadium.

Woods, like their opponents, were playing their first competitive game of the season and the tie against a fellow step four team who ply their trade in the Southern League drew a decent crowd, the majority of whom were hoping that Rob Ursell’s men could avoid the disappointment the club suffered last season when exiting the competition at the first hurdle against lower ranked opposition.

Northwood’s line-up contained six players making their competitive debut for the club including  goalkeeper Hafed Al Droubi who took his place behind a defence which saw skipper Dave Thomas reunited with Craig Carby in the centre while Ryan Esprit was preferred to Jaden Sharman at left-back. Charlie Kuehn took his place alongside Marcelo Graca in midfield and Richard Ward tucked in behind central striker Amin Belaid with Calvin Dickson and George Issac on the flanks.

The contest got off to gentle start with both sides looking to get a feel of the ball without creating any real chances in the opening minutes. However, there was a scare for the visitors when an under-hit back-pass caused a moment of panic in their defence.

Northwood began to make an impression in attack with Belaid crossing for Dickson whose close-range header was blocked. But play switched to the other end as Al Droubi was quickly out to smother a shot from Danny King before Jay Malshanskyj was denied by a timely tackle from Thomas as the Slimbridge man bore down on the Northwood goal.

Having dealt with a spell of Slimbridge pressure, Woods began to ask questions themselves with Dickson poking wide after Ward had helped on a Belaid corner. And the three debutants all played a part in Northwood taking the lead on 32 minutes after Belaid was fouled in a dangerous position close to the visitor’s box, Dickson powering home a header from Ward’s pin-point free kick.

The Swans looked to respond and Myron Turner tried his luck from distance, but Woods were soon back on the attack as a jinking run and lay-off from Issac found Graca on the edge of the box but his shot cleared the visitors' woodwork.

Slimbridge threatened as Owen Giles headed over from a corner and Kuehn made a timely interception to block Edji Mbunga’s shot. But Northwood could have gone into the half-time break with a two goal cushion as Dickson created an opening for Belaid but the latter took an extra touch when well placed and the opportunity was missed.

Woods started the second period in a positive fashion with Amin’s hanging cross picking out Issac who cut inside and tested visiting keeper Lewis Adams who gathered at the second attempt. And Issac was involved again after good work from Ward but the Northwood left winger was crowded out by the Swans defence as he looked to get his shot away.

However, the visitors gradually regained their attacking cohesion and put Woods under a spell of pressure with Rhys Sarson spurning a good opportunity as he shot weakly at Al Droubi.

Woods made a change in defence on 67 minutes as right-back Jones made way for Sharman who slotted into left-back with Esprit switching to the right. The visitors made couple of changes themselves and they were looking increasingly threatening as Northwood seemed to lose their way.

Woods looked to regain their grip on proceedings as Ryan Phillips was introduced for Dickson. However, Slimbridge were finally rewarded for their second-half endeavours with an equaliser on 82 minutes after the hosts squandered possession by the corner flag and substitute Jamie Martin headed the ensuing cross beyond El Droubi.

Northwood were forced into another defensive change for the closing minutes as Haluna Masembe replaced Carby who looked to be feeling his recent ankle injury.

With the clock ticking down and penalties looming with no extra-time being played in the early rounds of this year’s competition, both sides went looking for the winning strike. Al Droubi denied Mbunga as the Northwood stopper saved with his legs before Thomas had a glorious chance to win it for the hosts in the 90th minute as a free-kick found its way to him in  the six-yard box, but his shot on his weaker right foot was deflected by Slimbridge keeper Adams.

There was still time for Al Droubi to Thwart Mbunga again with a double save before a Thomas header cleared the Slimbridge crossbar to signal the penalty shootout.

Al Droubi was the hero once again as he saved Slimbridge’s second spot-kick from Turner after Ward and Kuehn had successfully converted for Northwood.  Belaid was then denied by Adams and Mbunga blasted over for the visitors before successful conversions from Issac and Johan Flo left Ryan Phillips with the chance to win the tie for Woods and he made no mistake much to the delight of his teammates and the Northwood faithful.

REPORT by Robin Piper
PHOTOS by James Brown