Canterbury City 3-2 Newport Pagnell Town
Canterbury City 3-2 Newport Pagnell Town

Well it was tough and it was tight and it was tense but in the end it was City that won their way through to the last sixteen of the FA Vase with a narrow victory in an enthralling contest.

A superb effort from everyone at the club who worked on organising and promoting this historic match and a fantastic support on the day was brilliantly rewarded by a monumental team effort on the pitch from City’s players who got themselves in front and stayed there despite some spirited play and two near comebacks from their worthy opponents.

A cagey opening period saw both sides just slowly feeling their way into the game and sitting back seeing what their opponents had to offer. The atmosphere was tense and nervous and chances were at a premium early on although Josh Winters blazed a second minute volley well wide for the visitors.

City responded when a shot from Bola Dawodu popped up kindly for a safe take by Pagnell keeper Mark Osbourne and Dean Grant just failed to get a clear strike away as Adam Woollcott worked the ball into the box. An attacking free-kick from Pagnell then saw a header calmly pushed just over his bar to safety by City keeper Jack Delo.

The cautious play continued with plenty of holding and pushing from both sides which by and large the referee allowed to continue. City were the first to really get into their stride and started pushing Pagnell back and a busy few minutes for the hosts saw a couple of long throws and three corners not trouble the visitor’s defence too much although Laurence Harvey did have a header and a shot in quick succession both blocked while Kyron Lightfoot made a quick solo break into the box and from a tight angle rolled the ball right across the face of the Pagnell goal but unfortunately there was nobody in a City shirt to take advantage.

It was becoming a bit of a midfield tussle as chances were exchanged when Woollcott fired a free-kick straight at Osbourne, while at the other end Tom Liversedge hooked the ball across the City goal but failed to find a colleague anywhere near or far enough forward.

The weight of play was favouring City however and in the thirtieth minute they took a deserved lead. A break from midfield by the returning Renford Tenyue was temporarily and momentarily halted by a foul from Scott Mulkern, but the City player was quick back onto his feet and to regain possession and so the referee waved on the advantage. A long one-two with Dawodu saw Tenyue then cross the ball in for Grant who was twice blocked out from an attempt on goal but the ball came back out and was picked up by Lightfoot down the right. He looked up and whipped a crisp ball across the keeper and out of Osbourne’s reach and it went in off the far post for 1-0.

A Pagnell corner down the left was then well taken by Delo under pressure before City doubled their lead. A free-kick wide left was swung inch perfect into the box by Lightfoot for Dawodu to run onto unchallenged and plant a firm header past the wrong-footed and stranded Osbourne for 2-0.

The half ended though with the visitors on the attack as a corner was cleared by Woollcott and a fierce shot from Winters was brilliantly blocked by Liam Quinn with the ball ricocheting slowly through to Delo.

City went into the break with a two goal advantage and hopefully in a very strong position but surely knowing that the next goal could prove crucial.

Pagnell started the second half with seemingly a bit more grit and determination and clearly confident they were still in the game despite the deficit they faced. An overhead kick from Dom Lawless in the box lacked any pace and looped up nicely for Delo to calmly take while an Adam Mousii shot was blocked by Dawodu chasing back to defend. Woollcott struck an effort well over for City before Grant won the ball in midfield and surged forward only to see his shot well blocked at close range by Osbourne before he lifted the rebound over the keeper but agonisingly, it bounced and rolled wide of the far post to safety.

A great ball from Woollcott then sent Lightfoot through on the break, but at the crucial moment and with Grant poised to receive it, the ball was overrun and Osbourne was able to retrieve it. An attacking free-kick from Lawless then went round the City wall but bounced up in front of the well positioned Delo and he was able to smartly and safely grab it.

A Tenyue cross was met by Dawodu, but stretching, his header looped up loosely for Osbourne to gather but Pagnell were knocking on the City door and eventually a handily placed free-kick got them back into the game. A yard outside the box and on the left, Harry Stratton lined the kick up and looking as if he was going for a direct attempt on goal, he bent the ball low round the wall and it was turned home from close range by Michael Lyons for 2-1.

It was a setback for City but they continued to push forward in what was a fairly open game. A Harvey header from a Woollcott free-kick was easy for Osbourne but he quickly got his side on the break and within seconds, Stratton was thankfully for the hosts, volleying well over the City bar.

The visitors were having probably their best spell of the game and with Danny Lawrence already on for Lightfoot, City made another change as the other scorer, Dawodu, was replaced by James Turner.

City were just on the backfoot a little but Turner was soon in the game winning the ball in midfield and scrapping through a couple of challenges before determinedly forcing a pass forward for Tenyue to take on. A rapid and bursting run then saw him brought crashing down a yard or two outside the box for a City free-kick. Up stepped Woollcott and he flashed a cracking shot into the top corner that just curled away from Osbourne’s full-stretch dive at the last second to beat the keeper and put City 3-1 up with just seven minutes left.

Surely that would be enough to see City through but just a minute or so later, Pagnell struck back again when Jake Stronge went on a lovely weaving run twisting and turning his way into the City box past three or four challenges before slotting the ball home past Delo for 3-2 and a great solo goal.

In a frantic last few minutes, Pagnell threw everything they had at City but City just stood firm and with some brave and defiant defending, just threw it back!

A couple of long balls hoisted high into the City box were safely dealt with and a free-kick was well cleared by a strong and timely Harvey header. City were running the ball into the corners looking to run some time down and as the game went into stoppage time, Pagnell were still desperately searching for the goal to take the tie into extra-time, but alas for the visitors, they just couldn’t break through.

Turner epitomised the determination of his team to hold what they had with a great piece of defending on the halfway line while Quinn then produced two successive quick and brave headers to clear the City lines before seconds later, the referee blew the whistle to see City through.

An entertaining – if at times nervy game, which was closely fought and with some great goals, but a strong and determined City whole team performance just shaded it and their (our) Vase dream goes on!

Final score: Canterbury City 3 Newport Pagnell Town 2

Canterbury City: Jack Delo, Michael Turner, Gary Sayer, Laurence Harvey, Liam Quinn, Ollie Lee, Kyron Lightfoot (Danny Lawrence), Adam Woollcott (Dan Keyte), Bola Dawodu (James Turner), Dean Grant, Renford Tenyue.

Unused Subs: Rob Lawrence, Josh Froggatt