Christchurch FC’s historic FA Cup run ends with penalties heartbreak

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Josh Kirkham heads in during stoppage time to send the game to penalties (photo: @justinparrypho1)

FA Cup Third Qualifying Round
Christchurch FC 1
Dulwich Hamlet FC 1
Dulwich Hamlet won on penalties 3-1

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CHRISTCHURCH FC came within a whisker of repeating their FA Cup giant-killing heroics after the Hurn Bridge side scored a stoppage-time equaliser to force penalties.

After a close contest last night (Tuesday), the match exploded into life in the final 10 minutes with Dulwich Hamlet reduced to 10 men before scoring an 88th-minute goal. The goal sparked the home side into life, and Josh Kirkham headed in to keep the dream alive.

The remarkable cup run came to an end despite the best efforts of keeper Lewis Gunstone-Gray who produced two excellent saves in the shootout to keep his side in it. His counterpart Grainger saved three times to deny Ash Pope, Max Wilcock and Kirkham as Dulwich won 3-1.

Christchurch, who compete three levels below National League South side Dulwich, more than held their own throughout the contest and they had multiple chances to break the deadlock.

The first real chance fell to the home side when Brad Hill did well to gather the ball inside the area. He lifted his head and fed Will Fletcher whose effort flashed past the right-hand post.

Moments later, Emmanuel Ohameje pick-pocketed his opposite number before a smart team move released the right back down the flank. His low cross was well cut out by the Dulwich centre back with Wilcock breathing down his neck.

The visitors’ first gilt-edged chance came just after the break when striker Deon Moore headed goalwards with a point-blank bullet header. Gunstone-Gray produced a tremendous save to flick the ball against the crossbar drawing gasps from all corners of the Hurn Bridge Sports Ground.

With just 10 minutes left, Dulwich managed to beat the Christchurch stopper for the first time. Fortunately for Gunstone-Gray, Brad Cherrett was waiting on the goal line to deny Diogo Barbosa.

Moments later, Dulwich were reduced to 10 men when Quade Taylor was deservedly shown a straight red card for a poor challenge on Nick Swann. However, far from hanging on, the visitors took an 88th-minute lead when Sandro Embalo diverted a deep free-kick for Moore to tap in.

The goal sparked Ollie Cherrett and Wayne Smith’s men into action, and when Wilcock headed a good chance wide, it seemed their moment had gone. With the final whistle moments away, Wilcock broke down the right before crossing to Kirkham, the second-half substitute’s header looped over Grainger to spark wild celebrations.

This was Christchurch’s third penalty shootout during their historic cup run. However, the third time was not a charm, with Brad Cherrett the only player to find the back of the net.

After the match, Ollie Cherrett told the A&T: “It was a great run, and we’re so proud of everyone involved. The game was brilliant too and the players were excellent.

“The support we received was amazing, and I want to thank everyone. Now we look to push on and make this the start of a successful season.”

Wayne Smith added: “We’ve had an amazing FA Cup run – the best in the club’s history – which we can all be proud of, the highlight being taking two step-two National League teams to penalties.

“Last night I thought we played really well, worked extremely hard and our shape was good throughout the game. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough for us on the night after a nail-biting finish. We are so proud of all the lads and I was gutted for them after the game.

“It was an amazing experience to have the opportunity to play in front of the BBC cameras and our fans in the ground were incredible. The club has had a lot of exposure in the last few weeks and we thank everyone for coming together to support us in one way or another. Lastly, I also want to thank all our sponsors for their support.”

Before the match, the club had to install extra electric points for the first televised match in their 135-year history.

Christchurch: L. Gunstone-Gray, B. Walker, H. Wright, L. Ansell, E. Ohameje, B. Cherrett, B. Hill, N. Swann, B. Satterley, M. Wilcock, W. Fletcher. Subs: M. Frampton, J. Blake, J. Buck, J. Johnstone, L. Delaney, J. Kirkham, A. Pope.

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