Walthamstow defied the odds to progress to the second qualifying round of the FA Cup for the third season in a row. Going up against a Berkhamsted side from the level above who had won all their games so far this season, it was never going to be an easy task, but Stow performed brilliantly, and deserved the win.
In front of a bumper crowd, it was a cagey opening with neither side really able to put their foot on the ball. The visitors were unsurprisingly on the front foot, but save for a shot wide, and a couple of through balls which Amarildo Cekrezi collected, they didn’t trouble the Stow goal.
The only goal of the game came just before the half-hour mark. Adalberto Pinto flicked on a Courtney Homans throw into the feet of Eman Okunja who held off his marker and played the ball out to Yemi Adelani. Adelani let the ball run across his body and finished first time through the on-rushing goalkeeper’s legs.
Five minutes later Berko went the closest yet to scoring, but Lucas Kirkpatrick’s effort after a short free kick was deflected just over the bar. A hallmark of Stow’s play this season has been putting the opposition defence under pressure, and just before half time it almost worked again. Okunja forced Briggs into conceding a throw and from that, Harrison Carnegie worked some space outside the box and clipped a delightful effort narrowly over.
As expected, the second half was all Berkhamsted, with Stow happy to soak up the pressure for most of the final 45. Six minutes into the half Berko worked the ball well around the Stow box, but Adam Watkins’ shot was sliced well wide. A couple of minutes later Ryan Neufville found some space, but Cekrezi parried well and Stow cleared.
Berkhamsted were becoming more and more frustrated, but still limited Stow to any real chances in the second half. Joe Wright had Stow’s only chance of the half, but it was a half-chance at best and he headed over.
With the Stow support calling for the whistle, there was still enough time for Berko to carve out one final opportunity, with the ball falling to Carl Chambers, but his top-corner-bound effort was met by an incredible diving save from Cekrezi. With 22 men in the Stow penalty area, the resulting corner game to nothing, and the referee blew for a historic FA Cup victory.