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REPORT - Clevedon Town 3 Hartley Wintney 4
HARTLEY Wintney reached the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup for the first time in their history with a dramatic last-minute victory at Clevedon Town on Monday night.
The Combined Counties League visitors trailed their Southern League Division One hosts 2-0 and 3-1, but two goals each from Elliot Hobden and Sam Argent saw Hartley through to a home tie against either Grays Athletic or Daventry Town.
Hartley boss Ben Dillon made one change to the side that had started the 1-1 draw at the Memorial Ground on Saturday, assistant manager Jason Minton coming in for the injured Carl Saunders as the village side switched to a 3-5-2 formation.
It was a tactical change that did not come off as the hosts dominated the first half, exploiting Hartley’s high defensive line.
Visiting goalkeeper Craig Atkinson, who had an excellent game, was in action early on, saving from Ross McNab, while Clevedon missed a guilt-edged chance to take the lead 18 minutes in. Ashley Lloyd felled Joe Flurry in the area but Ollie Barnes hit the post from the penalty spot.
It was the first major incident of what was to be a drama-filled night, but Clevedon continued to press, with Atkinson keeping out first McNab and then Matt Thorne before the hosts finally took the lead on 25 minutes.
McNab got the goal, heading home Barnes’ corner at the near post, while Atkinson did well to prevent Flurry doubling the lead soon after and then palmed away Thorne’s miss-hit cross, which was heading for the top corner.
However, there was no escape when Barnes was sent flying in the area, Thorne sending Atkinson the wrong way from the spot to make it 2-0 on 38 minutes.
Clevedon went close again before half-time, Atkinson denying McNab one-on-one as the hosts looked to capitalise on their dominance.
Dillon made a substitution at the break, bringing midfielder Hobden on and switching to Hartley’s favoured 4-3-3 formation – and the change worked a treat.
Clevedon’s Thorne had a goal ruled out for offside but Hartley went straight down the other end and halved the deficit, Hobden looping a delightful volley into the top corner from 35 yards.
The game looked up when Clevedon made it 3-1 just three minutes later, Thorne firing a low shot into the bottom corner of the net, but Hartley responded inside a minute, Hobden sending a low shot into the net via the far post.
The hosts began to look nervous and Hartley levelled with 20 minutes to go, Argent slotting home from the penalty spot after Kaine Gazzard had inexplicably handled in the area.
More drama followed as Tom Walsh’s free-kick from inside his own half bounced over the home goalkeeper and into the net – but with Hartley celebrating, the referee awarded a goal-kick, claiming the ball had gone in from an indirect kick untouched.
The visitors were certain the goalkeeper had got his fingertips to the ball but they needed Atkinson to come to their rescue once more when McNab got clean through again.
There was time for one final twist though – and it came in the sixth minute of injury-time, when Argent went down under a challenge from Sam Teale in the area.
The defender may have got a touch on the ball but the referee awarded a penalty and Argent dusted himself down to convert again, sending the visiting fans into raptures.
Speaking after the game, Dillon said: “It’s great to have made history by getting the club to the fourth qualifying round for the first time.
“I was involved as a player when we got to this stage before and I'm over the moon to beat that at the first time of asking as a manager.
"It was a game that had everything, a proper FA Cup tie – and the boys were brilliant in the second half.
“We started poorly and it was probably the worst 45 minutes we have played all year. We said to the lads at half-time that we didn't want to go out of the cup like that and we played the way we know we can in the second half.”
Clevedon Town: Barton, Teale, Gazzard, McCormack, Barnes (sub Best 75min), Thorne, Adams, Vahid, Fortune, McNab, Flurry (sub Feeley 75min). Subs (not used): Mountford, Dunn, Swift, Murray.
Hartley Wintney: Atkinson, Minton (sub Hobden 45min), Walsh, Jones, Urquhart, Lloyd, Elward, Hollamby, Argent, Stephens, Reynolds (sub Dillon 63min). Subs (not used): Partlow, Hutt.
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