IT WAS a disappointing Saturday for Ryman League clubs in the FA Cup: of the 13 in action, only three clinched places in the fourth qualifying round, two of them in all-Ryman ties. Two others go into the hat after drawn games.
Redbridge were the only side to beat ‘outside’ opposition. Having already put out two Premier Division clubs, the Motormen might have expected an easier time at home to unbeaten Spartan South Midlands League club Dunstable Town and the final 3-0 scoreline may sound convincing.
But Dunstable held out until the 71st minute before conceding a goal to Nathan Gordon and Redbridge keeper Adam Rafis then saved a Peter Holmes penalty. Ben Bradbury and Joe Gardner finally made sure of victory in the last five minutes and Motormen are now 90 minutes away from reaching the first round proper for the first time since 2003, when only the crossbar denied them a glorious triumph at Port Vale.
One of the shocks of the day came at Billericay, where Leatherhead turned the Premier Division table upside down. At kick-off time the hosts topped a table which Tanners propped up, yet it was the bottom club who hit three unanswered goals to bring back memories of past FA Cup heroics.
Vernon Francis headed them in front in the 11th minute and, after Liam Pestle got the second soon after the break, it was Francis who added the clincher.
Another upset threatened at Maldon, where the Division One North strugglers had the better of Premier high-flyers Hendon for an hour and led through Marcus Milner’s goal seven minutes before the break. Carl McCluskey put Hendon on terms in the 61st minute and Greg Ngoyi gave them the lead four minutes after that. The dismissal of James Lawson was a further blow to Maldon’s hopes and Elliott Godfrey completed a 3-1 Hendon victory in added time.
The Cornishmen of Bodmin must make the midweek trek to Godalming after a 1-1 draw. The Division One South club recovered from falling behind in the 12th minute and earned another chance with a goal from Darren Wheeler on 31 minutes. Wheeler later had a penalty saved by Kevin Miller and so Bodmin, from the South-West Peninsula League, are one of only two Step Six clubs in the hat for the next round.
East Thurrock had to work harder to earn their second chance against Southern League visitors North Greenford, who scored in the first minute and were 3-0 up by the half-hour mark.
Half-time substitute Greg Cohen came to the rescue. He set up Rocks’ opening goal for Kye Ruel in the 54th minute, pulled another one back himself seven minutes later and was again the provider when Sam Higgins made it 3-3 in the 77th minute.
That leaves six clubs who were beaten by teams from Conference South, though it could have been so much better.
Perhaps no-one will regret their exit as much as Margate, for whom Kwesi Appiah was on target in the first minute of their home game with Bromley and struck again after 20 minutes, his ninth FA Cup goal of the season. It stayed that way until the 70th minute, when Warren McBean punished a defensive error, and the same player headed the equaliser a minute later. Then, with a replay looking likely, Gate conceded an 88th minute penalty which was converted to give the visitors a 3-2 victory.
Cray also forfeited the lead in a Kent derby at home, going down 2-1 to Dartford. Tommy Whitnell struck for Cray two minutes after half-time but Ryan Hayes equalised on 72 minutes and Danny Harris won it eight minutes later.
Two Division One clubs suffered late heartbreak. Worthing went down 2-0 at home to Staines with both goals coming in the last four minutes, while Sudbury held out for 84 minutes at Eastbourne Borough before losing to Gary Elphick’s lone goal.
Lowestoft were another team to score first. Joe Francis put them ahead after 16 minutes at home to Chelmsford in a game that attracted a four-figure crowd to Crown Meadow. But Cliff Akurang and Max Cornhill gave the Essex club 2-1 half-time lead and they added two more before Dale Cockrill converted an 85th-minute penalty for the Trawlerboys. Kezie Ibe then got his second for the visitors to complete a 5-2 success.
The only club with little to remember from the day were Bognor, who were three down by half-time at Sutton and eventually lost 4-0.
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