Emirates FA Cup extra preliminary round - Holbeach United 1 Ely City 1
Holbeach United have central defender Jonny Clay to thank for keeping their interest in this season’s FA Cup alive after a disappointing draw with Ely City.
But no one who was at Carter’s Park on Saturday will be convinced that the Tigers deserved their cup lifeline in a game where it took a straight red card for Ollie Pinner to galvanise the home side into action.
Holbeach started well enough as wide men Gary King and Louis Saebe gave the Ely defence plenty to think about in the early stages of the tie.
As early as the second minute, Tigers’ impressive right-back Dan Worthington sent over a deep right-wing cross which Josh Ford just failed to get on top of, heading over the Robins’ crossbar.
Ford did find the net on seven minutes when he headed in an Andy Tidswell free-kick, only to have the goal celebrations cut short by the linesman’s flag going up for offside.
It was then that Darren Jarvis’ men seemed to lose their way as Ely grew in belief and their confidence was realised on 24 minutes when Craig Neal’s corner was completely missed by the Tigers defence, allowing Spencer Saberton to finish from 10 yards out.
Apart from a Callum Madigan long-distance effort, Holbeach showed no signs of getting back on level terms with their Eastern Counties League Division One opponents whose own chances of an upset were made even more likely after the main flashpoint of the game on 62 minutes.
Ollie Pinner raced towards the Holbeach goal before going to ground and appearing to catch Robins right-back James Seymour in the process with his trailing knee.
This was enough to see Ely keeper Craig Galbraith charge out of his goal to confront Pinner after which an ugly brawl developed at the supermarket end of the ground.
Referee Vincenzo Byatt showed Pinner at straight red card for violent conduct while Galbraith escaped with just a yellow.
The Tigers used the red card to their advantage and Tidswell’s free-kick was headed back across goal by man-of-the-match Jamie Stevens for defensive partner Clay to equalise.
Ashley Walter nearly won it for Ely in stoppage-time when he headed Sam Goodge’s free-kick onto the bar while, at the other end, Gary King forced Galbraith to turn a fierce angled drive round the post for a corner.
But Holbeach should be glad they are still in the FA Cup this season.
4-4-2: Drury 6; Worthington 7, Clay 7, Stevens 8, Ward 7; Saebe 5 (sub Gosling 60 mins, 5), Madigan 6 (sub Cartwright 83 mins), Pinner 6, King 5; Tidswell 6, Ford 6. Subs not used: Wells, Grimwood, Roberts.
4-5-1: Galbraith; Seymour, Sewell, Saberton, Jeffrey; Knowles (sub Gammon 68 mins), Walter, Griffin, Goodge, Neal (sub Richardson 85 mins); Theobald (sub Hook 83 mins).
Saberton (24 mins, 0-1); Clay (75 mins, 1-1).
Pinner (violent conduct).
Stevens, Madigan (fouls); Cartwright (dissent); Galbriath (unsporting behaviour).
Jamie Stevens – a footballer who should be plying his trade at a much higher level than this, he makes the science of defending look easy.