Walthamstow went up against a team a league above them in the FA Cup in Great Wakering Rovers of the Isthmian League Division One North. It was a highly competitive and physical battle that saw the home side come out on top in testing, hot conditions.
It was Walthamstow who started off the quickest and there was a penalty shout in the first minute when Gus Douglas was seemingly bundled to the ground but the referee wasn’t interested in the shouts. The earliest chance for Stow came when Jack Folan headed towards the goal but it was a comfortable save for Bobby Mason in the Great Wakering goal.
In the 13th minute marked a moment which had the potential to change the game. After going up for a header, Stow’s captain Vinny Murphy was adjudged to have stamped on Wakering’s Brandon Diau. Diau reacted badly and chased Murphy, moving towards him with his head. The referee deemed the altercation it enough to dismiss both.
The home side continued to dominate and wondered how they hadn’t taken the lead. Dwade James had a couple of shots, a header that was deflected out for a corner and a shot on the turn which was saved comfortably by the goalkeeper, before there was another penalty shout for a foul on Benji Crilley but again nothing was given.
Great Wakering has a couple of chances themselves. A free-kick Jack Stevenson was caught well by James Bransgrove before Stow’s number one between the sticks was forced into a good save five minutes before half-time. The last chance of the half saw Jamie Bennett’s header get tipped over the bar and the teams went into the break at 0-0.
It was another fast start to the second half when Dwade James ran into the ball but his shot was just deflected. Great Wakering also had a chance in the opening minutes of the second period but James Bransgrove denied them again.
Stow were awarded a penalty in the 51st minute of the game when Jamie Bennett was brought down in the box and forced into the barrier after nicking the ball in midfield and beating a number of Wakering players. Dwade James stepped up and converted it to give Walthamstow the lead. The goal gave the home side confidence and minutes later, they were awarded another penalty when Samrai Gebrai was dragged down. Dwade stepped up again but this time he hit the crossbar and was denied his second of the game.
Despite being behind, Great Wakering has a couple of opportunities to level the score. A shot was spilled by Bransgrove before being collected a second time around and a shot from the visitors when then cleared by the goalkeeper to keep Stow ahead. Danny McCullock had a shot from outside the box which was saved before a half-volley from Great Wakering was sent wide of the goal.
Wakering were reduced to 9 men when Henry Fisher was shown a second yellow for a late barge on Danny McCullock.
The pressure continued from Stow and they came close when a low cross from Ollie Fortune was taken by the keeper before it reached the feet of Dwade James. Jack Folan all but confirmed the victory with a fantastic goal. A through ball Charlie Yexley allowed him one-on-one with the keeper and a left-foot finish past him gave Stow a 2-0 lead.
The game ended 2-0.
Speaking after the game, Stow manager Ryan Maxwell said “It went how I thought it could go. After the first half, I was over the moon. Our fitness was tremendous and no disrespect to any team but I knew Great Wakering couldn’t match that. For us today, the tempo was key and an example was Jamie Bennett’s desire to keep going and then to be brought down is what we epitomise. It’s going so well at the moment and did I expect it today? Yeah I did!”
[When asked how proud he was of the squad] “I am so proud. This squad is still a working progress. They are so honest and I have nothing but respect for them. Long may it continue and these are a great bunch of lads who are easy and a joy to work with”
[When asked about preparation for Hadley on Tuesday] “Nothing will change. We will prepare exactly the same way but we will enjoy tonight because we have to. We will have a light session on Monday and approach it like we haven’t won this game.”