VIDEO: Haverhill Rovers 'thrived on support' to overcome Long Melford in FA Cup replay
First the first time in a decade Haverhill Rovers will be playing in the Emirates FA Cup Second Round Qualifying phase after a goal in each half, from Ben Bradley and Prince Mutswunguma proved enough to see off a late Long Melford rally at Stoneylands last night.
Melford spurned a few early golden opportunities, particularly Ben Judge's scuffed one-on-one, before Rovers put them firmly on the back foot with attacking midfielder Bradley keeping his cool to fire them into a 17th minute lead after Glen Morrison had made a good save to deny Mickey Davis.
In front of a bumper crowd thought to be around the 300 mark, the rest of the half belonged almost exclusively to the visitors, though they were unable to add to their lead before the interval.
Melford, who had drawn 0-0 in Haverhill on Saturday despite missing several regular players, had made four changes to their starting XI and after finishing the first-half well, began the second in the same vein.
But chances proved to be at a premium compared to the first half and it was not until the 77th minute that they seriously threatened with Sam Bayliss' dangerous cross catching goalkeeper James Philp out and Perry Moody having to come to the rescue to head clear under pressure.
It looked like Rovers had missed their chance to put the outcome of the tie to bed in the 81st minute when full-back Alfie Carroll met player-manager Marc Abbott's corner on the run, but could only head it into the turf and watch it bounce over the crossbar.
Within two minutes they were celebrating a 2-0 lead though as Davis' smart incisive pass into Mutswunguma, who had skied a second minute penalty on Saturday, saw the tricky forward fire in a low shot that deflected past Morrison's dive off Dan Swain.
There was a late grandstand finale though as Melford pulled one back in the 89th minute through substitute Will Wingfield's 20-yard effort.
Goalkeeper Morrsion ran half the length of the pitch after cleverly nipping the ball off a Rovers player in the sixth minute of extra-time to raise hopes of a fairy tale finish, but it was not to be as the vocal away support were left to celebrate.
It sets up another home tie at The New Croft with Bostik League Premier Division side Leatherhead, two tiers higher, a week on Saturday (September 22, 3pm) and also earns the club £6,000 in prize money for winning last night.
Reflecting on both matches, Rovers player-manager Marc Abbott said: "I think overall for the two games we were deserved winners.
"We played some really good stuff throughout the game and a half. I think the second half (tonight) was backs-to-the-wall and we were unfortunate to concede at the end.
"I think overall we have showed we have got grit and we can play, which is a good mix. I am thoroughly pleased."
Assistant manager Paul Miles said he always believed Mutswunguma was going to score and named winger Mickey Davis as his man-of-the-match, while fellow joint-number two Dario Seminerio said 'it is life memories for everyone at the club'.
It will not be the furthers Rovers have gone in the famous competition though, with the side having reached the fourth round of qualifying back in 2006/07, finally succumbing 4-0 at home to Aldershot Town.
Meanwhile, Long Melford manager Jamie Bradbury described it as 'an enjoyable journey' for his side, who were just a win away from equalling their club record run in the FA Cup, dating back to 2004.
"I am really disappointing to go out of the cup; it’s been an enjoyable adventure and we wanted to keep it going for as long as possible, but it just wasn’t to be," he said.
"Over the two games probably the best side won.
"We never really got going tonight and were second to everything in the first period.
"It was a better display in the second half after we’d changed things around, but a couple of injuries affected us and we just weren’t able to hurt Haverhill in the final third.
"The boys are all gutted, but they’ve done the club proud and have put some much-needed money in the coffers."
He added: "We all wish Haverhill the best of luck against Leatherhead and if they play like they did against us I think they can cause an upset and keep the Thurlow Nunn flag flying in the FA Cup."
He confirmed that Ben Judge and captain Steve Adams had both left the field with injuries in the second half.
Melford: Morrison, Bayliss, Swain, Walker, A Sloots, A Waugh, Ally, Lopez (Wingfield 45'), Adams (c) (Jackson 63'), Judge (Hemson 58'), Chaves. Unused subs: Collins, Pengelly, Pether, Bett(gk).
Rovers: Philp, Carroll, Fox, Noble, Holmes (c), Moody, Abbott, Bradley (Haines 86'), Lovell, Mutswunguma (Burr 87'), Davis (Halls 90+2). Unused subs: Tait, Lewis, Sartini.
Attendance: Unconfirmed (est 300)
Man of The Match: Mickey Davis. Made both goals and was a constant meance down the left-hand side that Melford could not find a way to contain.