After a day of Drama, the Wembley Dream is over for Congleton Town as they exit the Isuzu Vase at the Semi-Final Stage courtesy of holders, Newport Pagnell Town at The Cleric Stadium today.
It was Congleton who started the much brighter today as early pressure produced a couple of early chances for the evergreen Tom Pope and Jon Beaumont. Newport Pagnell carried direct threats themselves with Mo Ahmed and Jake Watson clearly revelling in the occasion. It was a tight game befitting of the spectacle but it was slightly against the run of play when Richard Duffy who appeared out of nowhere with a great touch to put the ball into the back of the net and cause a massive cheer that would likely have been heard across Cheshire to put the Bears ahead.
Newport Pagnell remained a threat and continued to press with Ben Ford testing Dave Parton in the Congleton goal and a couple of minutes before half time, the pressure continued as the ball was Crossed in to Jake Watkinson, who’s open header went over the bar, much to his frustration as he kicked the post with his expensive looking boots. His frustration was soon appeased as shortly after as Ben Ford found some space on the flank and crossed the ball into the box, Watkinson didn’t waste that opportunity as his well connected effort flew past Parton to level the scores at 1-1, which was the way it remained for the short time to the break.
The second half continued at the same frantic pace that the first had finished, just three minutes into the half, Peter Williams shot just over the bar and Pope had a half chance shortly after. Just after the hour Mark Newport were awarded a nothing free kick down the right hand side, the ball was played to Ben Shepherd who promptly swung the ball into the box, a Watkinson header was only parried by the keeper’ the Congleton defender in the mix failed to clear and Mo Ahmed charged in and scuffed the ball into the net to the delight of the away bench.
A number of substitutions took place as both teams started to remodel the sides for what was a shoe-in to be a mad finish and so it proved as both teams pressed for goals rather than shut up shop. The Swans lead only lasted for 5 minutes before a concerted Congleton attack saw the ball fall to Ethan Hartshorn, who’s spectacular volley gave Martin Conway in the visitors goal no chance and sent the crowd again into rapture. There was an air of inevitability at this point as both clubs quickly decided to sure things up at the back and despite a late half chance for Tom Pope, the final whistle went and the drama switch was turned to ten.
Congleton missed their first three penalties but Newport scored their first, missing the next two. The final 4 penalties were all converted giving Newport Pagnell the slenderest of victories in the most dramatic of fashion. This was the Swans sixth Penalty shootout win in their last two FA Vase campaigns but this arguably one of their most dramatic and it is they, rather than Congleton who will be heading to Wembley on non-League Finals day in May but The Bears can hold their head up high after a superb campaign.