Photo gallery: FA Vase fifth round: Hadleigh United 1 Wisbech Town 2
- Credit: Archant
Striker Tom James netted the winner on his last game for the club to help Wisbech storm into the FA Vase quarter-finals.
The pacy frontman – who is moving to Australia next week – coolly planted his 82nd-minute penalty into the bottom corner to book the Fenmen's place in the last eight for the first time in 24 years.
It was the 20-year-old's seventh goal in this term's competition and continued his sensational record of scoring in every round.
And it saved the tie from going into extra-time after Jon Fairweather had cancelled out Shane Wardley's lucky opener.
The Hadleigh full-back raced into the area as Paul Cousins tried to clear off his own line and the rebound flew into an empty net just before the half-hour mark.
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But centre-back Fairweather, on his first start since rejoining the club, capped a heroic display by equalising from close range on the stroke of half-time.
As the match wore on, it looked like the two sides wouldn't be separated. But Liam Jennings upended Danny White to give James the chance of keeping his side's Wembley dream alive – which he took with both hands to spark wild scenes from the away fans at Millfield.
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The Fenmen went into their latest cup fixture away from the Elgood's Fenland Stadium boosted by the return of Fairweather – who recently rejoined the club after a short spell with Spalding.
Callum Reed returned to the squad as did Godmanchester Rovers keeper Carl Mackney who deputised for cup-tied shot-stopper Lea Jordan. Callum Stocks was also ineligible.
The hosts were deemed to be favourites by many due to the fact they sit comfortably clear at the top of the Thurlow Nunn Premier Division. But Stuart Crawford was without key trio Scott Chaplin, Neil Calver and Matt Downing.
And their absence was felt early on as the Fenmen took control of the last-16 tie at Millfield. Steven Reid and Adam Millson dominated the engine room as the away side forced a string of corners. From one, Fairweather headed over a difficult chance.
Former Football League player Tony Battersby showed his class with countless expert touches to link his team's play as the Brettsiders struggled to get into the game.
Millson's goalbound volley was deflected just wide, after this term's Vase hero James had pulled the ball back from the byline, as Dick Creasey's charges upped the ante.
However, the Suffolk outfit looked dangerous on the counter and started to enjoy their first spell of domination.
Town joint-boss Cousins dwelt on the ball at centre-back to gift United's top-scorer Josh Mayhew the best chance of the opening exchanges. Thankfully for the travelling masses he pulled his one-on-one wide from a tight angle.
Tesfaye Bramble – brother of Titus – was giving as good a number nine showing as his fellow high-profile striker at the other end. He headed onto the roof of the visitors' net while he dazzled with some lovely approach play.
But the home club didn't have to wait long to take the lead as they benefitted from some good fortune. Ryan Stafford's drive was pushed onto the post by Mackney and Cousins' clearance hit Wardley before flying into the net. Cousins was lucky mind minutes later when his next attempt at getting the ball away hit his own bar rather than the back of the net.
Wisbech needed to find a route back into the game and they discovered one in the 44th minute thanks to some fine play from White and Millson. The latter crossed for Battersby and even though his shot was saved by David Howe, Fairweather – a rock at the back all afternoon – couldn't miss the follow-up.
The second period started much like the first as the United Counties League Premier Division hopefuls penned Hadleigh in. James would have had a great chance had it not been for a sensational covering challenge by Mark Goldfinch. And Fairweather went close to a second with a hooked volley.
Once again Crawford's charges muddled their way back into proceedings but as the wind and rain returned the game become scrappy and even.
Battersby had a sensational goal ruled out for a foul in the build-up as the two sides remained deadlocked leaving the stage set for a hero as the match entered its last 10 minutes. And you just knew that man would be James as he slotted home his spot-kick to grab the headlines and leave the club on a high.
Hadleigh (4-4-2): Howe, Stafford, Wardley, Maher, Goldfinch, Donnelly, Wright, Jennings (Barwick, 84), Bramble, Mayhew (Blades, 78), Canfer. Subs not used: Rose, Westren, Moyes. Booked: Wardley, Jennings, Goldfinch, Maher. |Goal: Wardley (28)
Wisbech (4-1-4-1): Mackney, Spafford, Cousins, Fairweather, Johnson (Doherty, 85), James (Cobb, 90+2), Reid, Millson, White, Lunn (Reed, 75), Battersby. Subs not used: Tricks, Davis. Booked: Johnson, James. Goal: Fairweather (44), James (pen, 82)
Referee: L Wood
- View photos from the match in the gallery at the top-right of this page.