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Christchurch through to Vase fourth round after penalty shootout

Ash Pope scores for Christchurch against Falmouth in the third round of the FA Vase (picture: @justinparrypho1)
Ash Pope scores for Christchurch against Falmouth in the third round of the FA Vase (picture: @justinparrypho1)

FA Vase Third Round

Christchurch FC 1Falmouth Town FC 1 Christchurch won 6-5 on penalties

CHRISTCHURCH progressed to the FA Vase Fourth Round with a hard-fought penalty shootout win over Falmouth Town at Hurn Bridge.

With local non-league football called off due to Covid government restrictions, 263 fans made the most of this rearranged FA Vase match. The original fixture was called off after a failed pitch inspection.

The meeting is the second time in as many seasons these two have met in the Vase. Christchurch won the previous encounter 2-1 at the same stage of last season’s tournament.

Ash Pope gave Christchurch an early lead before James Ward levelled for Falmouth Town in the final minutes of normal time to send the game to penalties.

The visitors took an early lead in the shoot-out, but Christchurch held their nerve, scoring the next six as keeper Lewis Gunstone-Gray saved twice. Christchurch’s Nick Swann sent the keeper the wrong way to bury the decisive penalty.

After a relatively uneventful opening eight minutes, Christchurch’s prolific Pope struck first, pouncing on a loose ball after Falmouth keeper Ryan Barnes could only tip away Will Fletcher’s hopeful goal-bound effort.

Falmouth immediately pushed forward, looking for the equaliser, but Marcello Jones’ decent strike flew over the crossbar.

Around 20 minutes in, the visitors swung the ball into the box where Luke Barner’s headed effort look destined for the back of the net, but keeper Gunstone-Gray did tremendously well to flick the ball past his right-hand post.

The closest Christchurch came to a second goal was an excellent Pope free-kick from almost 35 yards out, but keeper Barnes got his fingers tips to it, pushing it onto his crossbar and behind.

With Christchurch in the ascendancy, Falmouth were limited to sporadic counter-attacks.

Falmouth’s control of the game began to increase, and they fashioned a few decent chances. Midfielder Scott Kellow almost spectacularly drew them level when he plucked the ball out of the sky before striking it at goal on the volley from distance, but Gunstone-Gray was able to scramble across his goal.

Christchurch were still threatening on the break and almost put the tie to bed on two occasions, with Toby Clark cutting out Mickey Finch’s final ball to Max Wilcock after a quick break, and Will Fletcher’s strike well-held by Barnes.

The equaliser continued to prove elusive. However, Ward powerfully headed in Dave Broglino’s corner from 10 yards to send the match to penalties with four minutes left.

Will Fletcher missed the first penalty, but Christchurch were perfect from then on, with Billy Walker, Josh Kirkham, Mickey Finch, Brad Hill, James Johnstone and Nick Swann all finding the back of the net. Keeper Gunstone-Gray saved twice to seal a 6-5 sudden-death shoot-out victory.

Christchurch FC co-manager Ollie Cherrett said: “We started the game well and took an early the lead from Ash Pope. We had a few good chances to get the second, but it never came.

“Credit to Falmouth, they threw everything at us in the second half, and the lads defended well. In fairness, they probably deserved their equaliser. Going to penalties is always a lottery, but we’re pleased to come through it. The pitch was very heavy, and credit to our groundsman who worked all week to get the game played.”

Christchurch will play US Portsmouth away in the fourth round of the FA Vase. Last year, Christchurch’s run came to an end with a 2-1 fourth-round defeat to Sutton Common Rovers.

Cherrett added: “US Portsmouth are going to be difficult as they are a good side, but we’ll be looking to go one better than last year. Let’s hope we can get back playing as soon as possible.”

Christchurch: Lewis Gunstone-Gray, Emmanuel Ohameje, Bradley Hill, Harvey Wright, Billy Walker, Nick Swann, Ben Satterley, Luke Delaney, William Fletcher, Max Wilcock, Ashley Pope. Subs: Mickey Finch, Josh Kirkham, Kyle Graham, Luke Ansell, Micky Hubbard, James Johnstone, Max Frampton.

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