F.A. Challenge Cup – Third Qualifying Round

Boreham Wood – 3
Enfield Town – 1

by John Mead

Wood were pushed all the way by the Ryman Football League Division One North leaders in this gritty Cup tie. It took the visitors just five minutes to reply to Luke Garrard’s rare 63rd minute opener, making for compelling viewing. However Joe Benjamin’s first goal for the Club with eleven minutes remaining gave Wood the slightest of edges, before Substitute Lee Allinson made sure of a place in the hat for Monday’s draw with almost the last kick of the game.

Town gave as good as they received throughout the tie. They took on a recently bolstered Wood at their own quick passing game and it nearly paid off. Marshalled by the excellent Mark Kirby in the heart of the Town defence, the visitors stifled Wood’s early salvo of six corners, restricting them to just one effort on target, a Mario Noto low driven shot from the right hand side of the area. It beat ‘keeper Rob Blackburne hands down, yet was cleared off the line at the far post by Adam Wallace.

Town tested the Wood defence with Lee Kersey hooking away to deny Paul Campbell a shot at goal, before Garrard was forced to concede a corner, from which Dan Forward had his shot blocked by Noto. Wood proved dangerous on the counter attack and when Craig McKay brought down Elliott Godfrey thirty yards out, Noto tested Blackburne with a fierce drive.

Chances came and went at both ends before the interval with Jordan Lockie managing the only shot on target from 25 yards which did not trouble Ashlee Jones.

Godfrey’s turn and shot after the interval, followed by Noto’s through ball for Leon McKenzie who just missed out to the pace of ‘keeper Blackburne looked like a promising start, yet Ian Allinson’s men went inside their shells briefly as Town looked to get on top.

However the deadlock was broken when Greg Morgan cut in from the right evading two challenges before sliding the ball onto Garrard who placed the ball beyond the Town ‘keeper from eight yards to record his first ever goal for the Club in his 47th appearance. Any suspicions that the first goal would win the game were dispelled just minutes later in a quality move of counter attacking football. Kirby broke up play on the edge of his area and set Forward off who found Sam Byfield on the left wing in an advanced position. His cross was perfect for Bryan Hammatt who did superbly to get between ‘keeper and defender to nod home just yards from goal.

Some more brave goalkeeping from Blackburne and Jones’ save from Substitute Andy Jones’ looping shot kept the visitors at bay. McKenzie tried his luck with a diving header from a Noto corner that went just wide. What was quite possibly the defining moment of the game was Kersey’s overhead clearance that prevented a fiercely deflected shot falling at the feet of the last striker, a brilliant piece of reaction football.

That left Morgan to again provide the fuel for Benjamin’s goal. He dribbled and stumbled through uncountable challenges again cutting in from the right to supply Godfrey in a central position just inside the Town penalty area. He continued the move picking out Benjamin on the left who fired home under the body of Blackburne.

A late double Substitution by Allinson, with just one minute of normal time remaining, resulted in both players combining for the third goal. New signing Fola Onibuje, who at 6ft 7inches tall and a list just as long of previous Clubs to his name, received a pass from Justin Cochrane just inside the penalty area with his back to goal. He laid up into the path of Lee Allinson who executed a quite beautiful lob over the head of the overworked Blackburne to send Wood through to the final Qualifying Round in style. It is a stage of the Competition that Wood have appeared in five times in the last fifteen Seasons and were successful on every occasion!

The victory left Ian Allinson, “very pleased to win a hard fought battle. I warned the players to show upmost respect today and treat the game like a Conference game. They did not let me down. I felt we were lacking up front at times and had Mario’s effort early on not have been clawed off the line it could have been a different affair. We have beaten a very decent side today in a tie that I have to admit left me quite apprehensive. A lot of the Town side have Boreham Wood connections so it was a real Cup Final for them!”

Team: Jones, Garrard, Brathwaite, Moran, Kersey, Noto, Cochrane, Godfrey (Sub – Allinson 89 mins.), McKenzie (Sub – Onibuje 89 mins.), Morgan, Benjamin (Sub – King 84 mins.).

Subs (Not used): Kirby, Dadson, Hunter, Scott-Morris.

Goals: Boreham Wood: Garrard 63, Benjamin 79, Allinson 90+3. Enfield Town: Hammatt 68.

Man of the Match: Greg Morgan.