Bulls caught in Creeksiders’ Webb

By Connor Steel / Photograph by Paul Proctor

FAREHAM TOWN progressed to the second round of the FA Vase on Saturday afternoon following a thrilling cup tie versus Jersey Bulls; inflicting only the third defeat in their Channel Islands’ opponents three-year history via a penalty shootout following a one-all stalemate after 90 minutes.

Former Portchester keeper and recent signing Jon Webb became an instant hero for the Creeksiders on his second ever appearance; not only making crucial saves in normal time but stopping two penalties and scoring his own spot kick to secure Fareham’s spot in the next round draw to be held on Monday afternoon (1pm).

It was always going to be a tough tie against the much fancied Bulls in overcast conditions, which was proved by an attacking start from the visitors at Cams Alders. They created the opening chances as Frazer Barlow was denied by the feet of Webb after breaking through, moments before Sol Solomon saw a powerful drive fly harmlessly wide in the seventh minute. Barlow then saw another effort saved whilst Keiron Lester saw his shot drift over the crossbar as Fareham rode the early Jersey storm.

But backed by their 273-strong fanbase in the crowd, the hosts began to press higher up the pitch with Kai Sterne and Charlie Cooper looking dangerous on the break. It was the latter who helped to create Fareham’s first chance of the game as he advanced down the right wing, his low cross fired over by Ben Rowthorne from seven yards under pressure by the Jersey defender. Bailey Newbury then saw a powerful effort float over the crossbar with the supporters behind the Creek-end goal roaring their approval, just before Ash Tattersall headed over a corner on 33 minutes.

Despite the improvement from Fareham, Jersey were still looking dangerous and saw their best chance on 34 minutes as full back Jonny Le Querre raced forward to beat two Town defenders with pace. However the home goalkeeper Webb pulled off a solid stop at his near post to stop the low angled; although it didn’t take long for the visitors to take the lead before half time. A harsh free kick was given as Webb fouled Solomon resulting in some handbags as the Jersey striker rolled around on the pitch, earning the home number one a yellow card from the referee despite loud appeals from the Fareham coaching team.

After treatment for the away striker and a period of calming tempers, Soloman picked himself back off the surface and took the free-kick himself; his quick thinking effort curling over the ball into the top near post corner to spark celebrations amongst the away contingent. Upon the restart Fareham had a last chance as a corner was only half cleared, falling to Moody who headed inches wide with home fans seemingly believing the defender had scored. These cheers turned to booing at the referee once he had blown the half time whistle with home staff and supporters still upset at the free kick as Solomon should have gone off the pitch before taking the freekick, although many will say that Fareham switched off and weren’t playing to the whistle.

Jersey Bulls came out on the attack following the interval and were unlucky not to double their lead on 50 minutes as Le Querre broke through home defenders, with his shot tipped over the bar by another Jon Webb save to deny the visitors. On the counter attacker though Fareham levelled two minutes later as Cooper broke free down the right and played a great cross into the corridor of uncertainty, finding Callum Benfield who smashed home his shot into the corner from close range to equalise. It was a goal that helped the Creeksiders wrestle control in midfield with both Jack Breed and Curt Robbins going close before the hour mark, whilst Bulls keeper Euan Van de Vielt was alert to tip a header by Garry Moody over the crossbar on 63 minutes from a floating set piece.

Substitutions for both sides seemed to help the visitors seize attacking impetus, a counter attack seeing Barlow free on goal and the rounding keeper only to fire wide with an open net gaping for the attacker. In case fans thought this was a fluke he did this again in the 71st minute before Solomon fired wide under pressure in another let-off for Fareham moments later.  Down the other end Sterne was denied by a solid defensive block while Benfield picked up a knock to be replaced by Simon Woods on 85 minutes; moments later Archie Wilcox seeing a final home chance flash wide of the post as the game drifted towards a stalemate.

But there was one further moment of drama in additional time a drive from range was spilled by Webb, with a Jersey attacker seizing the loose ball within the crowded penalty area. The attacker then rounded the goalkeeper before falling to the ground after a tackle from Tattersall, with home fans saying he won the ball and away players appealing for a penalty. Thankfully for Fareham the referee denied the appeals and blew the final whistle shortly afterwards, meaning a penalty shootout was needed to separate the sides with no extra time period in the Vase early stages.

Fareham stepped up first at the Redlands end with a vocal home crowd behind the goal but they were left deflated as Ethan Jones’ attempt was saved by the Jersey keeper. However penalties from Robbins and Ben Rowthorpe settled the nerves; although the away takers were just as clinical with all of captain Luke Campbell, Solomon and substitute Ruben Mendes finishing calmly to leave Jersey 3-2 up after three penalties each. Archie Wilcox then slotted his penalty home into the bottom left corner to level the scores, with Jersey needing to miss one of two spot kicks to allow the Creeksiders back into the game.

And this is exactly what happened on Jersey’s fourth penalty as Jack Pearce’s effort was saved down low by Webb, who then stepped up and scored Fareham’s last spot-kick sending his opposite number Van de Vielt the wrong way to give the Creeksiders an advantage. With pressure on the last Jersey penalty taker, Calvin Weir came forward to take it and saw his effort tipped away by the Fareham goalkeeper to seal a fantastic home win just before 4pm after an earlier kick-off. It was a moment that sparked huge celebrations that lasted long into the afternoon; a lovely scene between fans and players as emotions came out following a nervous 90 minutes including the shootout.

But Fareham mustn’t celebrate this brilliant win against the competition favourites from the Southern Region – particularly with another busy week of league action ahead alongside the Vase 2nd Round draw on Monday lunchtime. The Creeksiders will travel to the Isle of Wight for their Wessex League encounter with Cowes Sports before hosting Shaftesbury at Cams Alders next Saturday with a 3pm kick-off. For Jersey Bulls they will face another trip to the mainland to play Tadley Calleva on Tuesday night, before playing Raynes Park Vale FC next Saturday in London.