Bridlington Town 1
Gillford Park 0
HERE was an FA Vase tie which had everything.
Two red cards, plenty of needle, a referee who angered both clubs, a missed penalty, three disallowed goals - and the result Town wanted.
In the end, a 19th minute goal from Josh Greening spared the blushes of two of his more senior team-mates - and even that strike had a touch of controversy about it.
Greening beat an offside scare to open the scoring, but Craig Hogg’s lazy first half penalty passed up the opportunity to make Town’s afternoon more comfortable, and skipper Tom Fleming ‘s thoroughly reckless behaviour meant the last 15 minutes were tougher than they needed to be after his sending off.
Lucky to still be on the pitch after landing a blow to the face of a Gillford player in the first half, he was given a final warning by the referee for a second half foul - and then decided to haul the visitors’ Ryan Errington to the ground seconds later, right in front of the official.
The man in the middle Geoffrey Liddle may not have got many of the afternoon’s big decisions right, but Fleming’s lack of responsibility gave him little choice.
The same could be said for Gillford sub James Parker who stopped being a footballer and started being a wrestler with five minutes left, manhandling Brid sub Darren Clough as tempers boiled over.
It was an eventful end, just as it had been a frantic start to the match. In the first minute, Mark Wilberforce produced an incredible one-handed save to keep out a header from a corner. Gillford looked like the meant business, but the reality was they wouldn’t come closer to scoring for the remaining 89 minutes.
Before anyone had time to draw breath, Brid broke upfield, Greening fed Hogg and his cross was met by Ash Allanson who looped a header over keeper Ryan Smith, but Marc Shiel headed it off the line.
Shiel then made an impression at the other end, shooting wide from the edge of the area - all this and we hadn’t even had five minutes.
Greening skimmed a header wide of the far post from Nathan Cook’s free kick, before the first of the three disallowed goals came on 16 minutes. Allanson found the net but a linesman decided the ball had gone out of play before Fleming cut it back.
Town were having an absolute field day down the right flank, and while Marc Butler escaped a yellow card for bringing down Hogg but two minutes later Park captain Tyran Taylor was booked for a similar offence.
Cook strode forward and thumped a shot into the bottom corner from the quickly taken free kick, too quickly for referee Liddle who chalked it off because he hadn’t blown his whistle.
The breakthrough came seconds later. Greening showed excellent control to bring down a high ball, and despite a suspicion of offside, he ran on and planted a shot home, via the far post.
Gillford’s bright start had fizzled out already and the hosts looked like they would run away with the tie and Smith made a good save to thwart James Bennett after another incisive break down the right.
On 31 minutes, the Seasiders were given a penalty. Hogg outpaced a defender and managed to toe poke the ball past Smith, as the keeper dashed out. The keeper brought him down, the referee gave a penalty...so why was the card yellow?
Punishment was not dished out as Hogg took a short run up and hit a weak penalty far too close to Smith, who also got up quickly to block the rebound.
Greening isolated Wayne Robertson then skipped past him and got a shot away which Smith held easily and then Bennett flashed a volley over the bar.
Then came Fleming’s first moment of madness. He clattered into a tackle with Errington, unnecessarily raising his arm into the striker’s face. Strangely, the Brid skipper was only booked, as was Gillford’s James Earl for dissent.
Town must have wondered how they were only one up at half time, because Gillford were offering very little going forward. That changed somewhat after the break, but an equaliser didn’t really look too likely. Earl’s free kick into the side netting being their closest effort.
Brid’s case wasn’t helped when Allanson, possibly their best player in the first half, limped off, and they saw a third disallowed goal of the match when Hogg applied a composed finish to Fleming’s pass but from an offside position.
The Seasiders dropped deeper and deeper, meaning Hogg became more and more isolated, and they went down to 10 men on 75 minutes.
Referee Liddle, who had a habit of pointing out all previous fouls when talking to players, made it clear that Fleming was off if he committed another offence, fouling a trip.
So why seconds later did he go steaming into Errington, wrestling him to the ground?
That was the cue for Park to send big defender Robertson up front and launch a series of aimless crosses into the box.
Matthew Lea shot over from inside the box after a scramble before 10-man Brid had their golden chance to kill the game off. A lucky bounce put Greening through, but Smith saved with his feet.
Robbie Hawkes hit the side neeting after a brilliant pass by Bennett, but Town were needing to defend and Craig Palmer made a series of crucial interventions in his own penalty area.
Any hopes of a Gillford comeback ended with two minutes left, when Parker joined Fleming down the tunnel. Sub Darren Clough made a fool of the defender with an audacious dummy on the halfway line. Parker made a bigger fool of himself by hlding him back, pulling his shirt, wrestling him to the ground and refusing to let go.
Cynical, clumsy and ridiculous - all in one, and it sparked various flashpoints all over the pitch. Parker was sent off as Clough would no doubt have had a clear run through on goal, no-one is quite sure why Hawkes was booked as well though.
Town were through, and despite knowing they should have had a hatful in the first half, they will also be aware that better quality opposition than Gillford would have realised they were there for the taking after the break.