WHITCHURCH UNITED 1 HALLEN 1.
Whitchurch and Hallen are geographically 80 miles apart and play in different leagues , yet thanks to whatever system the FA use to make the draws for their competitions met for the fourth time in 12 months on Saturday. And after four attempts Whitchurch still have yet to record a victory after a late own goal consigned them to an FA Cup replay on the edge of the Bristol Channel. In fairness, on the day it was a fair result with neither side having enough firepower in front of goal to force the outcome.
The home side started better and when the Hallen defence failed to deal with a corner Scott Hassell was unlucky to see his goal bound shot deflect to safety off a defender with the keeper totally flatfooted. Whitchurch maintained the pressure without posing any real threat and it was 17 minutes before the visitors had a worthwhile effort on goal, Mark Reid’s header being scrambled clear following a corner. Josh Green’s clever through ball found Hassell inches offside and some neat footwork from the industrious Jack Garner led to an effort from Josh Harfield flashing over the bar.
The breakthrough came midway through the half as Jack McCarthy forced his way into the box, the visiting defence appealed for handball and the referee gave a penalty – for which no one appealed and presumably for the challenge on McCarthy. After the arguments subsided Green sent the spot kick high into the roof of the net to give Whitchurch a deserved lead. Ryan Lambert, who had been in the wars more than once in the opening half hour, gave way to Tom Lockyer with the substitute firing over and McCarthy forced goalkeeper Sam Burgess into a smart save before Hallen gained some advantage as the half came to a close with Andy Cook, perhaps wastefully, firing across the face of goal.
McCarthy’s skill won the home side an early corner on the restart from which Hassell was wide before the visitors pushed forward with Cook too high from distance and James DeRosa stopped by a superb Adam Pearson challenge on the edge of the area.
Harfield was replaced by Ben Thomson, Brad Snelling saved well from a free-kick through a crowded area and McCarthy collected a needless yellow card for kicking the ball away before a Thomson free-kick was well held by Burgess and Elliott Parker became the third home player to be cautioned after the dangerous Raphael Waugh went down under a very soft challenge. The game was swinging Hallen’s way with the industrious Hassell lacking support in midfield, and though Lockyer went close with a clever effort the feeling was that if there was to be another goal it would go to the visitors. And so it proved with six minutes remaining as Waugh found substitute Lee Fairman on the left wing and his driven cross was inadvertently turned past Snelling by the stretching Pearson.