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Canterbury City 2 Biggleswade 1 - FA Vase match report

By Mark Stokes

Canterbury City are into the FA Vase semi-finals for the first time after coming from behind to stun Biggleswade at Salters Lane on Sunday.

Tom Cookman's early close-range goal gave the Waders the lead before City turned the game on its head during a four-minute spell spanning the break.

First midfielder Chris Saunders scored a spectacular effort from 25 yards before striker Dean Grant raced clear to fire home just moments into the second half.

Dean Grant Picture: Chris Davey
Dean Grant Picture: Chris Davey

Biggleswade, second in the Spartan South Midland League Premier Division had been big favourites ahead of the game, having only lost twice in 25 league games.

City, 12th in the Southern Counties League, had seen their preparations for the tie severely hampered the absence of defensive duo Laurence Harvey and Liam Quinn, through injury, and Adam Woollcott and Kyron Lightfoot, both of whom were suspended.

Manager Ben Smith moved to plug his defensive gaps by bringing experienced duo Phil Starkey and Luke Wheatley both of whom were handed debuts.

The Waders made a positive start as befits a team who had scored 80 goals in 25 league games and they were ahead inside seven minutes.

Top scorer Alex Marsh had already forced City skipper Jack Delo into a low diving save from 20 yards when City were punished for giving the ball away in the last third.

Laurie Marsh found full-back Adam Hunt in space in the right and his low cross was bundled in at the far post by No.9 Cookman.

City struggled to get into the game for the first 20 minutes and also saw playmaker Dan Lawrence booked for a challenge.

Biggleswade centre-half Nick Henebery put a header from a corner straight at Delo and it was half-an-hour before City's first shot on target as Lawrence's bouncing 20-yard effort was comfortably gathered by Ross Tompkins.

Michael Turner then picked up City's second booking of the half for a challenge on Alex Marsh, and on 36 minutes Ryan Inskip could have doubled the Biggleswade lead only to fire over from 12 yards.

That miss proved vital six minutes later when out of nowhere City midfielder Chris Saunders let fly from 25 yards and the ball dipped over Tompkins to bring City level.

It was probably slightly against the run of play but it reinvigorated the hosts who needed just seconds to go ahead after the restart as Saunders sent Grant clear and he finished calmly into the far corner.

Biggleswade almost fashioned an instant response as Lawrie Marsh's shot was beaten away by Delo and Lee Northfield then fired wide from 18 yards.

Lawrie Marsh wasted a good opportunity, curling over from a free-kick from 20 yards and Alex Marsh was just unable to get a telling touch on Pat McCafferty's chipped pass.

City were content to rely on the counter attack but could have sealed the tie on 74 minutes when substitute Renford Tenyue teed up Starkey but he blazed wide.

Five minutes later Biggleswade squandered a great opening when substitute Justin Leavers crossed low, and under pressure from Ollie Lee, Alex Marsh stabbed the ball wide from six yards.

That was to prove their last real opening and substitute Lee went close for City when he headed wide from Grant's cross.

City had to endure four minutes of added time, but held their nerve to join league rivals Cray Valley in the last four.

Canterbury: Delo, Michael Turner, Cooper, Starkey, Wheatley, Sayer, Dan Lawrence, Saunders (Lee 73mins), Grant (James Turner 90mins), Casey (Tenyue 65mins), Dawodu; Subs not used: Froggatt, Rob Lawrence.

Biggleswade: Tompkins, Hunt, Simpson, McCafferty, Henebery, Pena, Alex Marsh (Eze 83mins), Lawrie Marsh (Leavers 78mins), Cookman, Northfield, Ryan Inskip; Subs not used: Bradbury, Conor Inskip, George.

Attendance: 602.

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