We are through to the third round of the Isuzu FA Trophy following a dramatic spot-kick shootout versus Dover Athletic last Saturday which saw us win 4-1 on penalties.
The player to seal the victory was Anthony Cheshire, who coolly slotted past helpless Billy Terrell into the bottom right-hand corner.
Before Cheshire’s winner, Jared Thompson had been the hero, bravely saving penalties from Zidan Sutherland and George Wilkinson, both of whom were on the scoresheet for Dover in regular time.
The shootout itself had come after 90 minutes of electric attacking football, where both sides appeared to be down and out at different stages of the game.
We found ourselves 2-0 down to the hosts after just 15 minutes, before Ezio Touray netted a brace before halftime.
The second half looked likely to end with us being the victors after Brandon Goodship and skipper Tom Bearwish put us 4-2 up in the 54th and 61st minute.
That was until the final few minutes, when Nick Dembele pulled one back just seconds after his introduction, before Sutherland made it all-square with the very last kick of the game.
The forward was unable to be the hero once more though, seeing his spot-kick effortlessly palmed away by Thompson, before Cheshire slotted home to send us through.
Our changes following our draw to Farnborough involved Leo Hamblin, Touray and Cheshire being named in the XI, with the defensive line-up changing due to Calvin Brooks’ one-match suspension.
Though we didn’t know before the match, these switches would ultimately prove dividends come the final whistle.
Cheshire almost gave us the lead just four minutes in, the defender having his bouncing header cleared away.
However, our early promise would shortly be cancelled out when Allen opened the scoring just six minutes later.
The winger’s opener was a stunning strike, ultimately leaving Thompson no chance as his bending shot took a slight deflection just inside the box.
Iffy Allen would then find himself starting off the attack which led to The Whites’ second after just 15 minutes.
The goalscorer, once getting the better of Howe, attempted to find Henry Young with a deceptive pass.
Young ultimately saw the ball intercepted by Cheshire, albeit only to Wilkinson, who fired into the bottom right-hand corner, giving Dover a 2-0 lead.
At this point it looked as if we would need a miracle to get back into the game.
Our stroke of luck came in the form of Touray, who had already shown his love for scoring at The Crabble this season with a double earlier in September.
The forward had been unfortunate a few times before the half-hour mark, unable to stay onside with his runs.
He would, though, have good fortune from Goodship’s corner just after 30 minutes, after he was able to produce a flick-on following Cheshire’s knock-down, and poke the ball past Terrell from close range.
Touray’s goal appeared to give us a boost of confidence.
It would be only five minutes later when we had another golden opportunity, Dan Roberts beat Terrell to the ball whilst the goalkeeper was off his line.
The forward would be unfortunate to not find Bearwish with his cross, although the previous few minutes suggested that we would find another before halftime.
We would ultimately find our second just before the break, again through Touray, who was able to pounce on Goodship’s cross with a low header past Terrell down into the bottom-right corner.
After what could have been a drab day at the office following Dover’s early strikes, we headed down the tunnel with the opportunity to advance to the third round.
We continued the second half as lively as we ended the first, Roberts hitting the side netting just three minutes in.
When Terrell would be forced to deny Thompson’s header after 53 minutes, the early moments after the break suggested that we would find a third goal soon.
This time Goodship, earlier the provider, would be on the scoresheet, making it his second goal in as many games.
Only a minute after Thompson’s chance, the experienced forward found himself in front of an open net after Howe headed across goal.
With no Dover players able to stop the inevitable, Goodship was able to tap home, putting us in front for the first time in the match.
The scorer would not be done, however, being the assister once more just after the hour mark as he slid the ball through to Bearwish.
The skipper managed to time his run accurately enough so none of the opposition could catch him, leaving just Terrell between the ball and the net.
Making no mistake, Bearwish thumped the ball past Terrell, giving us a two-goal lead.
With just under half-an-hour remaining, it looked as if we had managed to secure our entry into the next round of the Isuzu FA Trophy.
Substitute Dembele, however, had other ideas.
No more than two minutes after his introduction, the forward found himself at close-range following Wilkinson’s pass-cum-shot.
Much like Goodship’s goal, Dembele was able to tap in with ease.
Just as it looked as if we would hold onto our lead, with what seemed like the last kick of the game in regular time, Thompson was unable to hold onto Joshua Anifwose’s long-range effort, allowing Sutherland to anticipate the loose ball.
The Whites’ top-scorer made no mistake, firing underneath our keeper to make it 4-4, meaning a penalty shoot-out would decide the winner between both sides.
Substitute Keelan O’Connell would be the first to take a spot-kick, confidently slotting home down the middle.
Next would be a reminder of just moments earlier, with Sutherland looking to fire past Thompson.
This time, however, our shot-stopper would be the hero, diving the right way as he reached both hands towards the Dover forward’s attempt.
With the shoot-out score currently 1-0 in our favour, Bearwish would be next up, powerfully striking the ball past Terrell into the top right-hand corner.
Though our lead would be halved when Anifowose fired the ball towards the exact same spot.
This meant we had a 2-1 lead as Roberts made the dreaded walk down the pitch.
The forward coolly slotted into the top-left corner, before Thompson displayed his heroics yet again, this time holding onto Wilkinson’s weak effort.
Following that save, all Cheshire had to do was to convert his spot-kick to win us the game.
He did just that, sending us through after a frantic cup game.
Earlier in the season, manager Bobby Wilkinson expressed confidence that “the goals would come” eventually from the players.
Make no mistake, Saturday showed exactly what our front-line is capable of.
By Jack Webb