There was cup fever in High Heaton yesterday as a record crowd of 619 visited Grounsell Park to watch them play Yorkshire visitors Eccleshill United in the Vase. It is both 40 years since the Stan last played in the 1st round & qualified for the 2nd round. The Stan Army were confident that their team could challenge the opposition who are also challenging for promotion but at a level above the Stan in the NCEL Premier Division. With plenty of stats involved, the late Football John, football researcher extraordinaire, would have been excited & the match ball was sponsored in his name.
There were 3 changes with Stoddart, Bailey & Hopper replacing McAndrew, Dobson & Sharpe. The match did not start well for the Stan as the visitors’ Cooper scored from a penalty in the 3rd minute after Regan had brought down one of their players. Initially the referee did not award a penalty but after consulting with his linesman he changed his mind. This spurred the Stan on & the Eccleshill keeper KIrkland almost immediately cleared via the bar from a McBryde header. In 8 minutes the most controversial event of the afternoon happened. A Stan counterattack saw Holmes race towards goal but Kirkland came out & brought him down just outside the box. The referee played on to the anger of almost everyone in the ground when they felt he should have given a red card to Kirkland for whom there was no replacement on the bench. The Stan attacked again with Esdaille putting the ball over the bar. The Stan kept attacking with Holmes supplying Hopper whose shot was deflected out. From Carr’s subsequent corner in the 12th minute, Esdaille headed from the back post for Holmes to equalise. Both sides were up for the challenge with Regan having to catch but then sent a long ball up to Hopper but Kirkland managed to grab it at his feet. Both teams were trying to attack which kept both defences busy. It was Eccleshill though who were back in front after 30 minutes when an attack was initially cleared by the Stan defence but a shot by Wade from the edge of the box went into the top left corner of the net. The Stan were 3-1 down in 36 minutes when Aldrich cut in from the left and scored. The Stan did not deserve to be 3-1 down & they did not give up. The positive attitude paid off in the 44th minute when a Stan free kick into the box saw Esdaille assist again by heading to Hopper who headed in for 2-3. Almost immediately there was another goal but unfortunately Regan could not stop a ball from Day rolling into the net.
The Stan hadn’t given up & started the 2nd half positively with Hopper crossing the ball to McBryde but he just couldn’t get to it. Hopper was then blocked in the box before a quieter period in the match which contrasted with much of the 1st half. In 55 minutes, the Stan should have got a goal back when a Carr long range effort hit the bar. After Eccleshill had shot wide then attacked again, the Stan countered in the 60th minute but Hopper lost the ball in the box when pressurised by 2 defenders. Soon after Kirkland had to punch clear & in 64 minutes a great move by Hopper saw him brought down in the box but only a corner was given. This & other decisions by the referee, especially the no sending off incident, impacted on the match especially for the Stan. This was the beginning of a period of sustained Stan pressure. In 65 minutes, Kirkland dropped the ball under pressure & fell over with play being stopped before a drop ball was awarded. The Stan kept attacking with the visitors heading off their line in 71 minutes. Against the run of play though it was then 2-5 when the visitors countered & sub Sangster scored with a great finish. A speculative Eccleshill long shot went just wide before more Stan pressure which included when Kirkland dropped the ball again but cleared it. He had to get down to save in 83 minutes & then block 2 Proctor shots. The Stan kept attacking until the final whistle, but the Wembley dream was now over for this season at least.
The positive Stan suffered their 1st home defeat of the season but there is still so much to play for as they are 7 points clear at the top of Northern League division 2 and host 2nd place Newcastle University next Saturday.
Credit: Joe Street