Monday, 21 May 2018

Stockton 0 Thatcham Town 1

Match 138/17/1588 - Sunday, 20th May 2018 - FA Vase Final

Stockton (0) 0
Thatcham Town (0) 1 Cooper-Clark 24 (pen)
Combined attendance: 31,430
Played at Wembley Stadium

Admission: £5 Senior
Programme: £5
Mileage: 100/8,821

Match Report

Non-league Finals Day is my day to put away the notebook and enjoy the day, this was accomplished by virtue of two very good games of football and not by the shambolic catering of Wembley Stadium and the awkwardness of officials on the concourse. If you are going to open so few outlets at least have the good grace to let people move around.

The benefit of a group purchase bought a senior citizen ticket for a fiver constituting the bargain of the season, so anything in terms of decent games is a bonus.

As said, my day off, so I'll let timmy_tabby from the Non-League Matters forum tell the story:

Leaving aside the efficacy of whether it is a good idea or not to let loose Jeff Brazier on unsuspecting mangers, lets digress to what was the best Finals Day in terms of contests seen thus far. Wembley is Wembley and I left the purchasing of over priced Fish and Chips and EPA to others and in a parallel universe, you wish that at the end of the first match that the doors will be flung open so that you can partake in the delights of the eateries of Wembley Retail Park, however you know that is never going to transpire...

The purpose of the day was to conclude the season with two worthwhile games and there was little doubt that those that were of a neutral persuasion and stayed for both matches were well rewarded. Reasonable seats in Club Wembley Block 203, but as each year go's past, the players look more and like ants running around and it is a culture shock that when all the previous matches seen this season were in a non-league environment a day at Wembley is a real culture shock.

In order of appearance, naturally start with Stockton v Thatcham, which was a good opener, with the latter deserving their win and for only the second time in nine seasons the Vase is not en route to Northern League territory. Thatcham were the more organised, moving well off the ball and had a good balance between the pace and trickery of Elliott on the left and the robustness in defence of Jarra and Melledew (who I must have seen play for Thatcham initially at least a decade ago). As stated Elliott was a real irritant to the Stockton defence, an early angled drive flew past the far post and a similar low cross of an enticing nature was perfectly placed but lacked a toe to steer the ball over the line.

It was a further Elliott cross which led to the Stockton defence failing to clear and a rash challenge from Ward took Brown's legs from under him leading to an obvious penalty award. The spot kick taken by the prolific Cooper-Clark was well struck but had enough pace to take it over the line even though Arthur in the Stockton goal managed to get a 'firm hand' to. Cooper-Clark nearly doubled the advantage just before half time with a perfectly struck half volley after his free kick rebounded back to him. Arthur did well to block to ensure that the first half lead for Thatcham did not increase.

Quick reaction from Stockton in the second half with the closest they came to a leveller. Stockton (presumably from Stockton on Tees) was in plenty of space as the Thatcham defence was for what was the only occasion invisible. His angled drive beat Rackley but Angell stuck out a leg to deflect behind.

One of the mysteries of the contest was as to why the net only bulged on one occasion. Thatcham had an excellent spell early in the second half but were unable to convert with Elliott yet again tormenting down the left, tempting low cross for James who pretentiously tried to back heel the cross in but obtained minimal connection allowing Arthur to gather. Soon after James had an even better opportunity, again supplied by Elliott but trying to break the net rather than calmly side foot, he ended up sending his close range shot off the underside of the bar and it was adjudged that the ball had not crossed the line.

Towards the end there was a succession of corners for Stockton and Jarra had to react quickly to clear off the line from D Mulligan. However, with the Stockton entourage including Arthur in the Thatcham penalty area they were badly caught on the break as Cook speeded towards the gaping net, perhaps he could have taken the ball in further, but his final effort did not quite have the pace to take it over the line and Garbutt sliding back managed to curl a toe around to ensure that the margin of Thatcham's victory remained at one.

Overall, Thatcham just about deserved their win, with a performance that suggests that providing that they keep the current personnel in place that they will be formidable at Level 4 next season. However, the curious aspect of an exciting contest only yielding a low scoring contest was replicated later in the afternoon.

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