The FA Vase – First Qualifying Round
Venue: The Recreation Ground
2021-22 Season: Match 21
Friday 10th September 2021 – 7.45pm KO
St Mags: Red & Black Shirts, Black Shorts, Red Socks
Benfleet: Sky Blue Shirts, Navy Blue Shorts, Blue Socks
Step 6 leaders ‘Fleet progress with good win at St Mags
St Margaretsbury 0 – 2 Benfleet
Match Report & Photos by Scott W [Twitter: @ScottMHC14]
The first match of a hectic weekend saw a welcome return to Hertfordshire for this FA Vase First Round Qualifying tie between Essex Senior side St Margaretsbury and Eastern Senior League South joint-leaders Benfleet, who were looking for their first win in the competition. For Ray Bartlett’s St Mags side, on-loan goalkeeper Christian North kept his place with a back four of Marvin Wray, Joe Parmley, Dan Palmer and Aiden Read. The forward line was led by the experienced Roddy Lemba, with skipper Tom Cowell alongside, and Ricardo Adewuyi and Sam Rogers on the flanks. Options on the bench were Napier Brown, Jake Hayden-Eley, Jermaine Nicholson and forward Kyle Roberts.
Benfleet have had a very encouraging start to their Step 6 campaign, under Rob Polkinghorn and named former Redbridge custodian Florent Gislette between the posts, will a defensive four of Ryan Willsmer, Martyn Lacey and centre-backs Sonny Hartman and Lee Scott. Well-travelled midfielder Aaron Russell skippered the side, with Ben Foord and Billy Bonham-Dare leading the forward line, with options from the bench including forward Ashley Blackburn, Charlie Sullivan and Adam Wright.
Benfleet certainly had a strong start to this match as they had a penalty shout turned down by referee Mark Bright after only four minutes. It was the hosts though who had the first sighter of goal as centre-back Aiden Read sent an initial header wide. Benfleet went straight up the other end though and a good cross by pacy winger Luc Harpon found forward Ben Foord but his header lacked the gusto to get past home stopper Christian North. However, the visitors were ahead barely a minute later as Harpon managed to evade a napping home backline on the Benfleet right side and cutting inside, Harpon twisted past his marker and struck home low into the left corner, past North.
St Margaretsbury managed to get themselves on the ball with increasing potency as the half-hour approached. First, Tom Cowell had a good chance on goal, with only ‘Fleet stopper Florent Gislette to defeat but his strike lacked the neccessary power and Gislette was glad to gather. Another set-piece by winger Sam Rogers for the home side found Read again but his header was off-target. The chances were quite few & far between for St Mags at this point but Cowell was well played in and a firm shot cracked against the right-side post with Gislette beaten. St Mags were really cursing their lack of fortune as ‘Fleet only went on the counter to double their advantage. Another good run by Harpon down the left side this side ended with a good low centre which found Billy Bonham-Dare and from close range, the forward made no error, sliding the ball home past an exasperated North.
St Mags were up against it when Cowell earned himself a early 10-minute rest in the ‘sin bin’, according to referee Bright seven minutes before the half-time interval. St Mags had a glimmer of a chance just before the break as a good ball in from full-back Marvin Wray tested Gislette but he was adjudged to have been fouled, denying Adewuyi a chance in on goal when well -placed.
Half-Time: St Margaretsbury 0 – 2 Benfleet
It’s fair to say that the hosts had more of the ball after the break, though Andy Greenslade’s strike went over the goal frame early on in the half. Unfortunately for St Mags, they were also having concentration lapses in defence, which allowed substitute Ashley Blackburn to advance with only ‘keeper North to beat. More fortunately for the hosts, Blackburn was unable to grasp control at the crucial moment and the chance was lost. Just shy of the hour mark, another good centre in from Wray found forward Roddy Lemba but his header was gladly gathered by Gislette.
The chances started to become a little less acute for either side in the latter stages of this match. Replacement Kyle Roberts had a really powerful effort well-saved by Gislette but for the most part the visiting defensive unit really endorsed their growing reputation in stifling a decent forward line of the home side. At the other end, a little note for St Mags keeper Christian North who certainly was not afraid to be a ‘sweeper keeper’ as on a couple of occasions he was well-justified in coming out to get ahead of an opposition forward and clearing well. Another example of this came late on as North came out to deny Foord a clear shot a goal, in what was the tireless Foord’s last involvement of the game before being replaced for the last few minutes by Adam Wright.
Full-Time: St Margaretsbury 0 – 2 Benfleet
To briefly summarise, Benfleet held on well to deservedly win the tie, despite occasional passages of good pressure by the home side. This is ‘Fleet’s first-ever win in the FA Vase so big congrats to all at the club. St Mags’ main attacking threat came from the flanks though they were well stifled by an obdurate & experienced visiting defence.
There were some fine performances in this match. Firstly, for the victors Benfleet, winger Luc Harpon had a really good impact on the game, despite having to be replaced at half-time. He showed a lot of composure, pace and finishing. Also, forward Ben Foord put in another strong performance, with work rate and led the line well. Goalkeeper Florent Gislette also pulled off some very good saves and will be pleased with his impact on the match. Finally, centre-back Sonny Hartman also typified his team’s defending. For St Mags, midfielder Andy Greenslade had a good game in central midfield, trying to drive his side on alongside Dominic Wynter-Stephens, forward Tom Cowell had two really good chances to score and on another day may well have created a different match, while right-back Marvin Wray looked good with good movement and passing. Lastly, Ricardo Adewuyi also had a decent game, looking to be drive from the left flank and did put some good balls into the danger area.
I’d like to thank St Margaretsbury for the kind welcome they extended here, as ever. I wish both teams a good rest of the season.
St Margaretsbury | Manager: Ray Bartlett | Assistant: James Falaise
Starting XI: 1 Christian North (GK), 2 Marvin Wray, 3 Joe Parmley, 4 Dan Palmer (9 Kyle Roberts 57′), 5 Aiden Read, 6 Dominic Wynter-Stephens, 7 Sam Rogers, 8 Andrew Greenslade, 17 Roddy Lemba, 10 Tom Cowell (Capt), 11 Ricardo Adewuyi (12 Napier Brown 77′)
Booked: Cowell (Sin-Bin 38′) | Subs Not Used: Hayden-Eley, Nicholson
Benfleet | Manager: Robert Polkinghorn | Assistant: Robert Rook
Starting XI: 1 Florent Gislette (GK), 2 Ryan Willsmer, 3 Martyn Lacey, 4 Taylor Lawrence, 5 Sonny Hartman, 6 Lee Scott (12 Charlie Sullivan 70′), 7 Luc Harpon (14 Ashley Blackburn 46′), 8 Aaron Russell (Capt), 9 Ben Foord (15 Adam Wright 72′), 10 Billy Bonham-Dare, 11 Mason Shave
Goal-scorers: Luc Harpon [7′], Billy Bonham-Dare [32′]
Booked: Wright | Subs Not Used: Sahan
Referee: Mark Bright