Haverhill Borough’s players were left crestfallen after allowing a two-goal advantage slip and with it the club’s first-ever cup final appearance at Portman Road.
Borough appeared on course to reach the final of the Suffolk FA Senior Cup when they led Anglian Combination Division One side Waveney 2-0 after 59 minutes in Saturday’s semi-final at Woodbridge Town FC.
But their opponents halved the deficit almost immediately, before equalising with five minutes of normal time remaining to force extra time.
With neither side able to conjure up a winner in the additional 30 minutes, the prize of a place at Ipswich Town’s home ground was settled by a penalty shoot-out.
Even then Borough led 3-2 after four spot kicks each, before Owen Longley and then Ian Bluett were unsuccessful and their opponents emerged 5-4 winners as it came down to sudden-death.
The Borough players walked off the Notcutts Park pitch with their heads bowed in the knowledge that they effectively twice had the tie won – only to see victory snatched away from them.
Borough had looked the more likely side to break the deadlock in an insipid opening period.
After Waveney’s Carl Burgess saw his left-wing corner land on the crossbar, Borough went ahead in the 57th minute. Matt Staines beat his marker before shooting into the bottom far corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area.
Inside two minutes the thought of playing under the Portman Road floodlights moved more sharply into focus, although there was more than a hint of good fortune about their second goal.
After Craig Pruden’s shot rebounded off a post, Staines drove the ball across goal and it hit the outstretched hand of the grounded Andrew Hammersley and ricocheted into the net.
However, Waveney went straight up the other end of the pitch and Ritchi High’s cross to the far post was converted by skipper Ryan Bloomfield.
The lively Staines saw his left-foot shot acrobatically pushed against the far post by James Bergin, before Hammersley smacked a header against the woodwork from Sam Shepherd’s right-wing corner.
Five minutes from time a Burgess corner dropped to substitute Kirk Gowing beyond the far post and he clipped the ball back into the danger area for Bloomfield to head home.
With no further scoring in normal or extra time the outcome was decided in a shoot-out – and Waveney held their nerve to shatter Borough’s cup final dreams.
Haverhill Borough: Charlie Turner, Ryan Geoghegan, Bart Pater, Ian Bluett, Cameron Watson, Scott Lodge, Harry Halls (sub Rory Bone, 101 mins), Jonny Milne, Craig Pruden, Aaron Forshaw (sub Ryan Swallow, 67 mins), Matt Staines (sub Owen Longley, 77 mins). Unsued subs: Danny Shipton, Martin Westcott.
Haverhill Echo Man of the Match: Matt Staines
Referee: Matt Oakley.
*See Thursday’s Haverhill Echo print edition for reaction from manager Martin Wescott.