MK Irish are through to the third round of The FA Vase after beating higher division opposition once again in the competition, this time in the most dramatic of fashions against Wroxham.
George Shrieves fired the visitors into an early lead out of nothing, latching on to a long ball from Nat Beecher and rounding the keeper before finishing well from a tight angle. That goal had come against the run of play and Wroxham did turn it around within the first half, equalising from close range before scoring a brilliant second just before the break.
The second half however had a totally different feel to it as the Irish grew into the game and equalised through Jack Clarkson’s back post header, before a frantic final ten minutes that could have gone either way. Mason Spence’s penalty looked to have won it for Terry Shrieves’ team, however Wroxham were awarded one themselves deep into additional time, levelling it up at 3-3 with the final kick of the game.
A penalty shoot-out followed, where some Owusu Kyeremateng heroics got his side over the line and into the hat for the next round.
The game had a good pace from the offset in front of what was a good crowd at Wroxham, with early possession dominated by the home side who were trying to confidently build out from the back.
Having the majority of the ball in the opening stages inevitably led to Wroxham having the first chance, which was one they should’ve done better from after cutting in well from the right hand side and firing wide from close range, albeit from a tight angle.
With just over ten minutes on the clock and out of absolutely nothing, George Shrieves latched onto a clearance forward and caught the Wroxham backline napping as he touched it past the oncoming keeper and finished expertly from a difficult angle to make it 1-0 to the visitors.
After starting on the back foot against higher level opposition that opening goal was vital and gave Irish something to defend, a lead to protect that they know could see them through to the next round.
Despite the early chance and having the lion’s share of possession, Wroxham took until half an hour into the game to test Kyeremetang in the Irish goal, forcing a good save from close range after a cross from the left ran all the way through and found the winger on the opposite side.
Immediately after testing the MK Irish keeper, Wroxham forged a way back into the tie through the experienced former Norwich City striker Grant Holt, who drifted into space at the back post and found himself free to tap a cross home from close range for 1-1.
That goal changed the tone of the first half’s final stages, a switch in emphasis that Wroxham took advantage of by taking the lead right on the stroke of the break. A deflected effort fell kindly to a home attacker on the edge of the area and he made no mistake as he finished well, across Kyeremateng with power into the far bottom corner.
As the second half began, Irish had a one goal disadvantage to overturn, which was looking like a massive task after what had been a difficult first period – but no one could predict the drama that was to follow.
The away side looked much more threatening as they pressed for an equaliser in the opening stages of the second half, and before long substitute Jack Clarkson made the desired impact off the bench as he converted a header from Mason Spence’s back post cross to make it 2-2.
Irish kicked on after the equaliser and after being up against it for the first half, they now looked more likely to go on and get a winner, stringing some good passages of play together and creating more chances.
With the game waring on both teams started to look as if they were feeling the effects of a month without match action, and tired legs were sure to play a part in the closing stages.
The fatigue from both sides was influential in what was nothing short of a crazy final ten minutes, as both Wroxham and MK Irish were hunting for a winner – which the visitors thought they had got with just a few minutes left to play.
Captain Robbie Macdonald was involved in some sort of altercation off the ball that saw him go down in the Wroxham penalty area, and after consulting with his assistant, the referee pointed to the penalty spot and gifted Irish the chance to take the lead right at the end. Stepping up and making no mistake was Mason Spence, who calmly stroked the penalty into the bottom right corner before setting off to celebrate with the ecstatic travelling fans.
Mason Spence converts from the spot to make it 3-2 late on
Terry Shrieves’ side now had a lead to defend for the second time in the match, one they’d only have to hold on to for just a few more minutes to see themselves through to the next round.
Expectedly, Wroxham threw absolutely everything they could at the Irish backline, desperate to force the game to penalties, but a string of saves from Kyeremateng and blocks from Beaupierre seemed to be keeping the home side at bay as the final whistle grew ever closer.
Limited to nothing but counter attacks in added time, Spence almost wrapped it up for MK Irish with about a minute left on the clock, driving into the box and cutting inside before only finding the keeper with his shot.
Immediately following that chance and with what was the final attack of a much extended injury time period, a Wroxham through ball from Holt saw them through on goal and Irish defender Nat Beecher in trying to get back fouled his man and in dramatic fashion the ref pointed to the spot again. Wroxham’s taker scored under immense pressure with the final kick of the game, meaning it would be a penalty shootout to determine the winner of the tie.
Scorer of the late winner away to Broadfields a couple of rounds back, Dom Lawless went first for the visitors and scored, which was matched by Wroxham as both teams started the shootout strongly.
Jack Clarkson went second for the Irish, and after scoring during the game he saw his penalty saved before Wroxham converted to make it 2-1.
That meant the pressure was on for the next Irish penalties, and centre back Christiaan Beaupierre did well to put his penalty down the middle and beat the keeper. Step up Owusu Kyeremateng, who got his side back on level terms as he saved Wroxham’s third pen, leaving the scores at 2-2 after three each.
The ever dependable Liam Smyth went next, scoring brilliantly before the home side levelled things up and created a sudden death situation for the final penalties.
Mason Spence, who had a chance to get his eye in from the spot during the game, looked cool as you like as he rolled his penalty home leaving Wroxham needing to score to keep the game alive. It was Grant Holt who stepped up to take their final penalty, and Kyeremateng was the hero again as he got down low to his left to save fantastically and spark incredible scenes of celebration that went long on into the coach journey back home.
The FA Vase dream can now continue for this amazing group of players, who continue to prove that their excellent team spirit can see them through such difficult situations. The competition is now down to the final 64 teams, who will find out their fate in Monday’s draw for the next round.