by Jack McNally…
Aldershot Town lost their FA Trophy 1st round replay in heart-breaking fashion Monday night, as it took 120 minutes for East Thurrock United to edge out the Shots 4-3.
The Shots started the game with brutal pace, with multiple long balls being played up the right hand side to Charlie Walker, who was constantly scrapping for the ball and doing so successfully with several runs leading to excellent crosses into the box.
One such run led to Walker’s cross bouncing around the box, to be headed in by Bernard Mensah but was immediately called for offside. And Walker’s playmaking ability was a real threat to United as he was constantly finding lanes and avenues with the ball to an open man for a shot, and managed to strike a few shots of his own early on that were all inches away from goal.
Aldershot’s first goal however came from Matt McClure in the 27th minute with an excellent powerful header to the top left corner off a well-placed cross from Iffy Allen. But minutes later United would respond with a pull back from Ben Marlow to Sam Higgins who laced the ball into the bottom left.
This instantly put pressure on Aldershot as they began to furiously chase any United player on the ball in the hopes to get back in the lead, but this backfired as Higgins managed to break free of the Shots’ back line and led to Jack Saville using just a little too much strength to try and stop the streaking forward.
This led to an instant red card for Saville, a free kick and a goal for United in very quick succession. Now the Shots were 2-1 down and left with only 10 men. But once again Walker was sprinting up the wing, and this time cut inside with a brilliant fake to send Joe Ellul toppling to the ground, but managed to get his head in front of Walkers shot that would have most likely rocketed into the bottom corner.
But in the second half Walker would get his goal, as a long ball from Shots keeper Mark Smith, was brought down masterfully by Mensah who turned, sprinted down the left hand side and played a perfect ball to Walker who slid in to poke the ball in and get the game back level at 2-2.
The Shots were playing a very high pace, constantly having balls played overhead and trying to get on the end of them, but the missing man at the back led to a free-kick and a headed goal from United’s Ellul to put them up 3-2 in the 74th minute.
And with the clock running down it looked all over, until the 90th minute when Shamir Fenelon made a great break into the box and fired a powerful shot that United’s keeper couldn’t handle and dropped in front of Mensah who rifled home a last second equaliser sending the game into Extra Time.
In extra time both teams were exhausted and desperate for the game-clinching goal as both had amazing chances come from looping crosses, fast breaks down the wings or one man trickery such as Cheye Alexander who danced passed two defenders and side footed a shot towards the top left, but was blocked at the last moment.
But the winner came from Kane Ferdinand who capitalised on a tricky low cross that Shots keep Smith could only palm away, leading to Ferdinand just managing to tap it in and listen to the collective shock from all in attendance at the EBB Stadium.
It was a traumatic ending to a very hard-fought game by Aldershot, who were left with only 10 men but managed to score three goals, and never gave up when hope looked lost.
East Thurrock United will now face Braintree on January 14th in the 2nd round of the FA Trophy.