Walthamstow won their 3rd penalty shootout in four games and progressed in the FA Cup as they beat St Margaretsbury on Tuesday. It was another tough game for Stow, who could have both won and lost the game late on before going to a penalty decider.
It was a quick start for Walthamstow who could have been ahead in the opening minute after Dash lifted the ball over a defenders head before shooting but his shot was just over the bar. The opening minutes were all Walthamstow as they tried to get the better of the the Bury defence but they couldn’t find a way through a stubborn defence. The first chance for the visitors came in the 12th-minute when Isaac Stephens got away from the defender on the left-hand side and shot at goal but it was collected on the second attempt by Connor Sansom.
Stow continued to dominate as they looked for the opening goal. A header from Jon Clements was tipped over the bar, but later adjudged to have been offside, before a header from Charncey Dash was just wide and a cross from Dash was well held. The Stags were close to a lead when a Dash header from a corner was scooped off the line by Emmanuel Olajide before a shot from Michael Toner was blocked in the box. Tyler Campbell had made a good run but his shot deflected off the foot of Clements before he tried to run through but the ball was well shepherded. Despite a long pause after Dash was down injured, the teams went into the break level.
St Margaretsbury were almost ahead in the opening minutes of the second-half when Kyle Roberts had a shot but it was comfortably saved by Sansom. There were chances for both sides as each team looked to break the deadlock. Reece Conway had a shot blocked before Clements pulled the ball back to Toner but his shot was well held by Olajide. St Mags had a shot across the face of goal go just over before they had a golden opportunity to lead but it wasn’t to be as a scramble in the box saw a few shots saved and blocked before the ball was cleared.
As the game reached the final 20-minutes, Walthamstow began to dominate again. A Bury defender almost send the ball past his own keeper but it was just wide before a header from Jason Beck was just out of play. Callum Ibe had created some space in the box but his shot was blocked before Beck had a few more efforts at goal; A header from a corner was blocked before a volley from the edge was fired over. Ryan Reed saw his free-kick from the edge tipped over by Sansom.
The last 10-minutes saw Stow up the pressure as they looked to win the game in normal time. Two header from Dash were well defended before Michael Toner was denied. A header was tipped over, but ruled out for offside once again, before a shot was flashed just wide. St Margaretsbury had a shot comfortably saved before Stow were awarded a penalty in the 90th-minute. Charncey Dash was pushed in the back in the box and stepped up to take the spot-kick but he skied his penalty. Despite a couple of long throws for Vinny Murphy in added time, the game was brought to an end and sent straight to penalties.
Margs’ Kyle Roberts stepped up to take the first spot-kick but he was denied by Sansom before Connor Scully put Stow one-nil up. Tom Massey tried to bring St Margaretsbury level but Connor Sansom made another huge save as Michael Toner converted to put Walthamstow 2-0 up. Ryan Reed stepped up against his old side and scored while Emiel Aiken also converted his spot-kick. Emmanuel Shoderu converted his penalty confidently but Tyler Campbell saw his spot-kick saved. Isaac Stephens briefly brought the shoot-out level before Charncey Dash stepped up to send Stow through with a confidently struck penalty.
Speaking after the game, Manager Max Mitchell said “It [the game] was stressful and I’m starting to think the players are doing it on purpose! I feel like I’m repeating myself in terms of how games are playing out and how we have been playing in recent weeks. It was attack-after-attack and we just need to find a way to unlock a little door because once the first goal goes in, 2, 3 or 4 will follow. St Margaretsbury were resolute in their defending tonight and they defended really well and the keeper has pulled out save after save and had one of them nights but they didn’t muster anything that I thought would hurt us over 90 minutes. We need to find a way to find build up that confidence in front of goal and put the ball in the back of the net and keep probing and believing in terms of our ability in the final third. A positive from last night was our first clean sheet of the season which is something we can build on.”
[Another penalty shoot-out, how strong is the player’s mentality?] “You can’t help but think on the side-line when is that bit of luck going to run out. But their has been no luck in terms of the penalties we have taking in all three shoot outs, all players have have stayed calm and composed from 12 yards. The confidence I have in the players here is through the roof. Unfortunately we ain’t getting games won in open play at the moment and if every game was decided with a penalty shoot-out, I would fancy us every day of the week, especially with the goalkeepers we have at the club. The players have nerves of steel and they showed once again that they can handle the pressure.”
[How proud are you of the boys?] “It was half-time against Harwich on Saturday where I said how proud I was of them. The work-rate was there to see and we were really good in the first half on Saturday. I’m massively proud of the team and everyone behind the scenes. There is something happening in East London, we have had more fans going through the turnstiles this season, we have a fantastic supporting club in Ryan FC and where all moving in the right direction. We need to make sure we stay hungry because at the end of the day, with the chances we have had in recent games, we should be putting teams to bed. I’m extremely proud of how they have progressed through three penalty shoot-outs [in four games] but we need to align that with our league form as a cup run will always breed confidence through the squad. After tonight, we should be going into the game against West Essex [on Friday] with more confidence.”