It’s a huge week at Nyetimber Lane as SCFL premier-division side Pagham prepare to welcome Ryman premier outfit Dulwich Hamlet in the first qualifying round of the FA Cup.
Mark Bennett’s Lions have already come through two rounds of the famous competition, beating Littlehampton and then Canterbury City, to set up the mouthwatering and potentially money-spinning tie this Saturday.
A big crowd is expected at the Lane to see how Pagham get on against a team who are more used to visiting Nyewood Lane, Bognor, when they come to this part of the world.
Dulwich are old rivals of the Rocks and have played them in three play-off games in the past five year, as well as in some classic league encounters.
Pagham reached this stage by beating Canterbury 2-1 in extra-time in a replay at Nyetimber Lane, Josh Irish’s strike giving the Lions the win.
Knowing the reward was such a prestigious FA Cup tie, Bennett’s men started where they left off in the first tie in Kent, where Scott Murfin’s equaliser gained the Lions a replay.
The visitors were under pressure from the off, Ben Mepham testing Daren Hawkes in City’s goal. Pagham skipper Shay Wiggans could have opeened the scoring, only for Hawkes to again save the day.
This seemed to spur the visitors on, and they opened the scoring themselves as Sam Conlon capitalised on a defensive error to strike past James Binfield.
It could have been two on 14 minutes, only for Ryan Philpott’s shot go wildly awry. Canterbury skipper Dan Lawrence tested Binfield form range, but the Lions were finding their teeth.
Mepham was unlucky to be caught offside before going close on the half-hour. In on goal, the Pagham youngster’s header agonisingly rebounded off the post.
Neil Murfin was a massive influence for the Lions, robust challenges keeping the play with the home side. A clash of heads on 39 minutes saw Ryan Morey floored. The pacy winger was able to continue.
As the first half raced to a close, City could have gone further ahead with Dan Lawrence shooting wide and then a defensive mix-up allowing the visitors to hit the bar on the stroke of half time.
City started the second half positively, Dave Pilcher’s run latching on to Philpott’s cross only for the ball to be cleared for a corner. At the other end, Mepham was again close for the Lions, but the ball to be scrambled out for a goal-kick.
On 55 minutes, Mepham’s efforts were rewarded, a tremendous run ending with an equally-superb shot past the stranded Hawkes.
This reawakened the Lions’ roar, with Liam Humphreys and Scott Murfin both going near to scoring.
Rob Lawrence tried his luck for Canterbury at the other end, but it went well wide.
Chances were coming thick and fast as both sides looked to avoid defeat. With less than ten minutes of normal time remaining City sub Henry Dasofunto dribbled towards goal, only for Binfield to again keep the Lions in the game.
A booking for Dan Lawrence and a near miss for Liam Humphreys ended normal time.
Extra time began with Gary Mickleborough through for City, the ball being hacked away by Pagham’s back four.
Jordan Clark left the field on 102 minutes, with Irish coming on.
The visitors were still keeping Binfield busy as he pulled off save after save to rescue the Lions.
With the game all square after the first period of extra time, many were wondering if penalties would be needed.
Pagham upped the ante, and kept on pressing their opponents into their own half, with the thought of that Dulwich Hamlet tie spurring them on.
With 118 minutes on the clock, Irish was involved in a goalmouth scramble, came off best and smacked home a deserved winner. This seemed to knock the stuffing out of the visitors, as their discipline went, with a double booking adding to their woes.
James Thurgar almost made it 3-1 in the dying seconds, his shot forcing Hakwes to punch the ball away.
Pagham: Binfield, Wiggans, Van Driel, N Murfin, Humphreys, Clark (Irish 108), Kempson (Bingham 96), Mepham (Thurgar 80), S Murfin, Morey; Brown, Ward.
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