Walthamstow were forced to show their resolve to overcome Newbury Forest after the Thurlow Nunn outfit produced a stunning late comeback to force a penalty shootout in the Preliminary Round of the Essex Senior Cup on Tuesday night.
Stow were the dominant side throughout the match and looked on course to ease to a 2-0 win through goals from Jason Hallett and Samir Bihmoutine but Newbury scored twice in the final three minutes of regular time to take the game to a penalty shootout. Stow ‘keeper Jack Moore was the hero in the shootout, saving two penalties on his senior debut for the first team.
The game started fast, with both sides fashioning early chances. Yemi Adelani almost opened the scoring after just two minutes when he was played into the left channel and bore down on goal, but his near-post effort smacked the bottom of the woodwork and bounced clear.
Three minutes later Newbury had two big chances to score of their own. Stow’s midfield was pulled apart as they tried to adjust their pressing to Newbury’s passing play, which allowed Tyrell Holder to be played in, whose initial strike was saved before testing Moore’s reactions by pouncing on the rebound, but Stow survived on this occasion.
Newbury were showing flashes of the threat they carried up front, testing the Stow backline on the counter with pace and flair. After Adelani flashed another shot wide on the turn at one end, Newbury’s number nine Jesse Osaro – playing predominantly on the right hand side of a three pronged attack – showed his ability and skill to cut in on his right but his shot was straight at Moore and this time the Stow defence denied any possible rebound.
Stow’s pressing and fitness started to show as the half wore on, and four minutes after Adelani had a goal ruled out for offside, Stow took the lead. Good work down the wing from the Stow left side saw the ball cut back for top-scorer Hallett, who took a touch before calmly rolling the ball back the way it came and into the opposite corner.
Newbury tired towards the end of the first-half, so it wasn’t a surprise that they looked to get a fast start on their opponents when the second-half restarted. Osaro threatened twice in quick succession. First he broke in through the right channel between Stow’s left-back and left-sided centre back before flashing the ball before later threatening to break through but the Stow defence stood firm.
Stow made the lead more comfortable ten minutes into the second half. Bihmoutine received the ball on the left flank and showed good footwork and fleet-footedness to fashion himself a chance at goal, which he confidently dispatched into the bottom left-hand corner to double Stow’s advantage.
There was then a touch of controversy as Connor Scully – who replaced Bihmoutine on the hour mark – swung in a corner which was flicked on by the dangerous Adelani, and it looked like the ball had crossed the line but the referee and linesman did not see it that way. Adelani was booked for his protestations on a frustrating night for the forward.
The game fell into a quiet period after that, with a succession of injuries causing a lull, but Newbury stunned it back into life in the final minutes.With 87 minutes gone, a hectic scramble on the edge of the Stow box fell kindly to a Forest player who lashed it home to put the pressure on Stow.
That pressure paid off immediately with Stow like a heavyweight boxer on the ropes. Forest found more space in midfield and the front line combined well to set up a one-on-one finish almost straight from the restart
There were jeers and laughter as Newbury chose to take penalties at the opposite end to where the Rabble had sung loudly throughout the second-half, a touch of gamesmanship from the Thurlow Nunn side, but it wasn’t going to stop the Rabble from celebrating come the end of the night.
Substitute Scully put his penalty away before Adelani confidently dispatched his effort, and after trading blows, Jason Hallett scored Stow’s fourth to put the pressure on Newbury’s final penalty.
Jack Moore read the taker’s intentions well again and dove the right way to bat away the final effort, affirming a heroic performance from the reserve keeper making his full senior debut for Stow.
Stow will play fellow Essex Senior League side Little Oakley in the first round of the Essex Senior Cup, which will take place on or before the 6th November.
By Chris Williams