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REPORT - Hartley Wintney 1 Clevedon Town 1
9:03am Sunday 13th October 2013 in Sport
BRAVE Hartley Wintney will consider themselves unfortunate not to have progressed directly to the draw for the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup for the first time in the club's history after a spirited performance against their Southern League opposition.
More than 400 people were at the Memorial Ground for a game in which the home side looked more threatening even after being reduced to 10 men in the first half. They took the lead after the break and it took a deviated shot to earn Clevedon Town a replay on Monday night in Somerset, writes Kevin O'Byrne.
Hartley went on the attack from the off, and as early as the fifth minute Carl Saunders took on a shot from distance that was narrowly wide.
Their first real chance came on 21 minutes, when Ian Jones broke into the penalty box and his shot was blocked. The ball ran loose to Shane Hollamby but the visiting 'keeper parried his effort around the post.
From the resulting corner, the ball was played to Saunders outside the box and his low drive was spilled by the 'keeper but retreived just before Hollamby could pounce.
Then, on 35 minutes, came what could have been the turning point.
Hartley goalkeeper Craig Atkinson made a good save at his near post and the resulting corner was headed towards goal. It struck full-back Tom Walsh full in the face but as he instinctively put his hands up it hit a hand.
At first the referee played on but when Clevedon failed to score from the rebound he blew his whistle for the penalty and brandished a straight red card to Walsh. It seemed harsh, and perhaps some justice was done when Atkinson got down to the fiercely hit penalty and parried it away.
Hartley were forced to reshuffle but the sending off appeared to have little affect on the home side, who continued to press forward.
On 42 minutes a shot from Sam Argent was turned around the post by the 'keeper following a very well weighted ball over the top of the Clevedon defence by Max Elward. This was followed just two minutes later when Argent turned his marker on the edge of the penalty box and unleashed a terrific effort which the 'keeper again did well to tip over the bar.
Hartley continued to take the game to the visitors as half-time approached, but a counter attack just before the break created a rare chance at the other end, the Clevedon forward dragging his shot across goal and wide of Atkinson's post under pressure from Ashley Lloyd.
The opening goal came 12 minutes into the second half and went to the home side.
Under a challenge, the visiting keeper mishandled the ball and it went behind him and dropped into the corner of the net. It was almost a surprise when the referee awarded the goal, given the protection normally afforded to goalkeepers in the modern game, but it was nothing more than Hartley Wintney deserved from their endeavours to that point.
Another Argent effort was saved just a minute later, but shortly afterwards, at the other end, the home defence blocked two goalbound shots in quick succession within the penalty box as Clevedon attempted to up their game.
Atkinson was grateful to see a shot from close range cannon off the post as the game started to open up, while at the other end, Zac Reynolds' through-ball on 66 minutes fell nicely into the path of Ryan Stephens but the goalkeeper narrowly won the tackle on the edge of the box.
Three minutes later came perhaps Hartley's best chance to secure the win when some quick, accurate passing saw the ball played from Elward to Stephens to Jones. He seemed likely to shoot from a central position some 12 yards out, but chose to slip the ball to his left, where Saunders was arriving.
Saunders' low drive was superbly blocked to prevent the 10 men from doubling their lead.
Still Hartley pressurised, with a wonderfully well struck volley by Saunders flying narrowly over the bar on 73 minutes.
But coming in to the last quarter of an hour, the missing man began to tell on the home side as tiredness began to set in. Clevedon squandered two good opportunites, the first seeing the ball travel across goal with no forwards on hand to apply the finishing touch, and then a forward missing his kick as the ball came to him centre of the goal, well inside the penalty box.
At that stage it seemed that perhaps Clevedon were destined not to score but an equaliser did come in the 82nd minute. A shot from distance would have been comfortably dealt with by Atkinson, but another Clevedon forward got his foot to it and diverted it, leaving the Hartley keeper unable to adjust his feet in time to attempt a save.
Clevedon could now see the opportunity to nick a win in the dying minutes of what had been a truly pulsating and hard-fought FA Cup match.
A huge melee in the Hartley Wintney penalty box resulted in three shots in very quick succession being blocked by desperate Hartley defending.
Then came what for a moment seemed like despair for the home side with just two minutes of regular time to play. As Elward played the ball out of defence, his effort was blocked and fell very kindly into the path of a quick Clevedon forward, who raced towards goal.
Atkinson came out but the striker appeared to get a toe on the ball and then go down dramatically. For a moment it seemed a certain last minute penalty but instead the referee brandished a yellow card at the forward for simulation.
It was the final main action of a game that will have had hearts of both sets of supporters pounding for the entire 90 minutes.
Hartley Wintney: Atkinson, Reynolds, Walsh, Elward, Urquhart, Lloyd, Saunders, Jones, Stephens, Hollamby, Argent. Subs: Williamson, Partlow, Hutt, Minton, Dillon
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