Road to Wembley 17/18: 2nd Qualifying Round

Colney Heath 0-3 Burgess Hill Town
The 2nd qualifying round on my Road to Wembley. Privileged to be part of Colney Heath Club history to witness this round for the first ever time. It was certainly going to be their toughest encounter yet being drawn at home (obviously) to Burgess Hill Town of the Isthmian Bostik league which is 2 steps higher in the non-league pyramid.
We set off nice and early again to get to the Crooked Billet in time for opening, the weather was very on and off all day but thankfully the worst part stayed away for the 90 minutes and we only saw light showers during the game. We had all agreed that it was going to be a difficult task for Colney Heath to get at least in the draw for the next round but that task seemed to double once we saw the size of the Burgess Hill players! Now, I’m fairly short but the number 9, Brandon Diau, seemed like he was pushing 7 foot, and to be honest the biggest Colney Heath player didn’t look like they could match with even the smallest of their Burgess Hill counterparts.
The game didn’t start well for Colney Heath either, on the 4th minute a powerful strike from outside the area couldn’t be held by Harry Smart in goal, as he parried it out straight to what seemed like a queue of 2 unmarked Burgess Hill players one of which was Pat Harding who calmly dispatched into the back of the net.
At this point Colney just couldn’t seem to get a foot on the ball and have any prolonged possession with Lee Armitt up front looking increasingly isolated whilst Burgess Hill were winning the ball back easily and playing it around well. The strength showed even more when on the 14th minute a Burgess Hill corner led to another poor moment for Harry Smart who found himself unable to deal with the cross right under the bar with a 6-yard box crowded with players where the ball was headed in by Brandon Diau.
As the first half moved on, Colney eventually seemed to have some significant possession and create a couple of chances without really testing Huxter in the Burgess Hill goal. On the half hour mark, Burgess Hill made it 3 with a nice controlled volley from Brandon Diau again following a good cross in.
Things weren’t looking good for Colney until the 36th minute when a confident run by Stef Geraldes saw him brought down by the Burgess Hill defender in the area where the referee to pointed to the spot. Callum Dudrenec became the 3rd different penalty taker of this seasons FA Cup for Colney Heath and he confidently struck to the keepers right, Huxter got his hands to it but it was too powerful and that gave Colney Heath a lifeline.
So at half time Colney had it all to do but could be encouraged by the end to the first half, both sides probably shared the chances but the magpies didn’t really start to play until they were 2-0 down.
I can imagine there were some strong words at half-time by Ryan Thompson to his team and they definitely came out as a very driven and much improved unit. Jimmy Hill and Oz Allman made an appearance and both certainly had a big helping hand in what was going to happen in this half.
After 64 minutes Colney managed pull another goal back after a good strike by Stef Geraldes led to a diving save by Huxter which sent the ball right up in the air which eventually dropped for Jimmy Hill to volley home and give Colney Heath some confidence that they could get something.
Roughly 10 minutes later Oz Allman somehow found himself managing to muscle Aaron Smith-Joseph off the ball and make a dart into the area where the Burgess number 10 made a slightly clumsy challenge which sent Allman to the ground but referee wasn’t having any of it and gave a corner to Colney Heath.
Time was starting to run out for Colney Heath now and with about 5 minutes left Dudrenec was stood over a free kick centrally about 40 yards out. He clipped it forward towards Hill, it was the Burgess number 5 though that got his head to it without getting much power so it dropped to Jack Woods who perfectly side foot volleyed it into the back of the net and sent the home fans wild.
So it was 3-3 and looking like a replay but there was still time for Jimmy Hill to find himself between the centre backs, getting his head on a cross but he couldn’t quite control it and it went over the bar.
A fantastic comeback from Colney Heath and the dream goes on, the first replay of my Road to Wembley is on Tuesday night at the Green Elephants Stadium where we will already know the next opponents as the draw is made on Monday.
Following Mondays draw that revealed the winner would have a home tie against Wealdstone, a Conference South Side, both teams had it all to play for.
We made the long trip on Tuesday to Burgess Hill and arrived about an hour before kick-off where we sampled the club house at the ground and chatted to members of the strong following Colney Heath managed to bring.
As the game started both teams were creating chances, with Colney Heath pressing high up trying to force defensive errors which they had obviously noted as the Burgess Hill weak point from the game on Saturday. They were also getting plenty of crosses in towards Parkinson and Woods up front.
It was however, Burgess Hill who got the breakthrough on 15 minutes through Pat Harding who also opened the scoring on Saturday. This time there was a dart into the side of the box and shot which was saved by Harry Smart in goal but only to be palmed towards the incoming Harding from the other side of the box where he calmly placed it into the goal to give the home team the lead.
What followed was a bit more control from Burgess as they showed early on in the first game, Colney must have been using plenty of energy to chase the ball down but on 36 minutes Burgess Hill were given the chance for a second. They were awarded a penalty for a foul in the area which seemed to enrage the Colney contingent as they seemed to think there was a dive.
The penalty itself was calmly put into the bottom left corner by Tony Garrod with the keeper diving the other way.
So at 2-0 at half time Colney had it all to do again but they could draw on the second half in the first game to give them some hope. Whilst Burgess Hill did have a curled effort hit the bar early in the second half, Colney definitely stepped it up in the second half and created plenty of chances with a few corners, Jack woods having a strike at goal and Jimmy Hill being brought on again to cause problems.
Spencer Clarke-Mardel had a cracking effort from around 40 yards which stinged the fingertips of the changed goalkeeper James Shaw in the Burgess goal.
Another chance came along for Colney later on with Matt Taylor finding himself one on one with Shaw but unable to finish it off with the keeper staying solid and reducing the options for the Colney player.
On 72 minutes the 16-year-old right back for Colney, Isa Rutimi, received a red card. After dribbling the ball down the field to relieve pressure, he reacted with an apparent headbutt after being tugged back. This made Colneys job a lot harder, and shortly after it was thought that Burgess had got a third after they had a shot cleared off the line with some fans behind the goal thinking it may have actually crossed the line. Not long after though, as Colney were pushing forward Burgess did produce a rapid counter attack which the away side just couldn’t keep up with having given so much. There was a strong run into the Colney half and then a pass to Tony Garrod who netted his second of the game.
So this tie did end 3-0 and Burgess did show the higher level quality in the end, but take nothing away from Colney who gave so much to the tie and did put in two spirited displays in both games. Their fantastic cup run has come to an end and our road continues. Next up, Burgess Hill Town v Wealdstone FC.
Our thanks to Jack Debbage. Follow him on Twitter and check out his YouTube channel.

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