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Stanway Pegasus knock out higher-league Halstead Town out of the FA Vase via a penalty shootout after twice being pegged back





A season high crowd at the Milbank Stadium certainly got plenty of value for their admission price as Halstead Town went the distance with Stanway Pegasus before the latter lower-league side knocked them out of the Isuzu FA Vase in a tense penalty shootout.

The second-placed visiting Thurlow Nunn League First Division North side were competing in the national competition for the first time in their short history, having been founded off the back of a Sunday league side in 2018 while mid-table Halstead had been looking to progress to the second round for the first time in 14 years.

But it was Mark McLean’s Essex Senior League Premier Division outfit who had to show their character after falling behind to Tariq Issa’s fourth minute finish before also responded to a sublime 52nd minute free kick from Peagsus captain Dean Ager.

Halstead Town goalkeeper Jack Cherry is consoled by a team-mate following the penalty shootout exit to Stanway Pegasus Picture: Mecha Morton
Halstead Town goalkeeper Jack Cherry is consoled by a team-mate following the penalty shootout exit to Stanway Pegasus Picture: Mecha Morton

A Kane Gilbert penalty had drawn the Humbugs level nine minutes before the break before a blockbuster volley from centre-back Robbie Bennett arrived to wild celebrations among the 478-strong crowd 12 minutes from time.

But Jordan Palmer’s opening penalty being saved by Sam Felgate proved to be key in the subsequent shootout, as every other kick rippled the net to leave Pegasus as the 5-4 victors.

The fixture was one of only a handful of non-league games in the area which had survived the effects of Storm Babet with the volunteer groundstaff at the Milbank Stadium taking a round of applause ahead of kick-off in front of the bumper crowd.

The visitors were first to threaten with Jack Cherry getting a strong hand to divert Callum Griffith’s angled shot past his far post as the rain lashed down.

Up the other end Joe Older’s shot was touched on by Kane Gilbert by it was not enough to trouble Felgate.

But it was Stanway that got themselves into the lead in the fourth minute slightly controversial circumstances.

The referee choose not to halt play after Jack McPherson took a dramatic fall in the area. After turning back inside Jack Shelvis and the full back got back on his feet to find Issa with a low cross and the former Colchester United professional slammed it in back across Cherry’s goal.

Stanway Pegasus players mob winning penalty taker Jack McPherson Picture: Mecha Morton
Stanway Pegasus players mob winning penalty taker Jack McPherson Picture: Mecha Morton

Halstead looked for a quick response but Alfie Cleal’s shot on the turn was straight at Felgate.

Sonny Dutton did execute a fine finish from Jake Brown’s throughball in the 20th minute but the offside flag cut the celebrations short.

Stanway’s Sam Cripps passed up a decent opportunity to double the visitors’ lead four minutes later when he headed over an unguarded net following a corner which had caught Cherry out.

Halstead Town players react to the penalty shootout from the half-way line Picture: Mecha Morton
Halstead Town players react to the penalty shootout from the half-way line Picture: Mecha Morton

But the Halstead shot-stopper made ammends when he rushed out to save at the feet of Cripps.

The home side, who had increased their pressure on the boggy surface, went agonizingly close to an equaliser when Bennett nodded Matt Coppen’s low throw goalwards only to see a defender blocks it with his head before another knocked the looping rebound over his own crossbar.

Jack Cherry is unable to keep out another Stanway Pegasus penalty in the shootout Picture: Mecha Morton
Jack Cherry is unable to keep out another Stanway Pegasus penalty in the shootout Picture: Mecha Morton

The visitors were still looking dangerous on the counter and Cherry had to pull off a diving save to keep out Griffith’s curling shot in he 27th minute.

His opposite number Felgate came to punch Dutton’s deep free kick clear before Gilbert’s diving header on an inch perfect Older cross to the far post somehow went wide.

But they were given a helping hand for the equaliser a minute later when Freddie Hayes upended Ade Funbi in the area with Gilbert sending the keeper the wrong way from the penalty spot.

Halstead come close to scoring, but Stanway clear it off the line Picture: Mecha Morton
Halstead come close to scoring, but Stanway clear it off the line Picture: Mecha Morton

The home side looked to use their momentum to get their noses in front before the break with Dutton’s header from another long Coppen throw held under his bar by Felgate while Cleal’s low shot was too close to trouble him.

Dutton fires over from an angled shot after being fed by Gilbert’s tenacious play as the half ended all-square but with the hosts firmly in the ascendnecy.

It was Pegasus that came out with their tails up though with Cherry rushing out to make a good save at the feet of Ager down the side of his area within two minutes of the restart, also getting up quickly to block the follow-up shot.

Stanway captain Dean Ager scores from a long-range free kick for 2-1 Picture: Mecha Morton
Stanway captain Dean Ager scores from a long-range free kick for 2-1 Picture: Mecha Morton

He was caught stranded a few minutes later after coming out to make another save but Bennett was on hand to head away Issa’s deep shot.

But they were undone by a stunning free kick in the 52nd minute with Ager firing in from 35 yards out into the top left-hand corner beyond the dive of Cherry.

It was not until the hour mark that the Humbugs fashioned their first chance of the half but Jordan Palmer’s volley from a defensive header spun out for a throw-in.

Cleal had the crowd gasping soon after as his shot on the turn from just outside thundered just over the bar.

Robbie Bennett went on to score Halstead’s 78th minute equaliser and proved to be the standout home player to earn our man-of-the-match award Picture: Mecha Morton
Robbie Bennett went on to score Halstead’s 78th minute equaliser and proved to be the standout home player to earn our man-of-the-match award Picture: Mecha Morton

Running across his marker at the near post, Funbi could not manage to steer Halstead substitute Harry Peakney’s cross goalward.

In the 68th minute it was last-gasp defender which came to Halstead’s aid as Benett made a lunging block to deny Griffiths’ angled shot.

Up the other end Gilbert fired down the throat of Felgate after doing well to work his way in from the byline past Samir Rhaiti and Issa.

There was a 400-plus crowd regsitered at The Milbank Stadium for the second successive Saturday Picture: Mecha Morton
There was a 400-plus crowd regsitered at The Milbank Stadium for the second successive Saturday Picture: Mecha Morton

The latter found himself in a good position on the edge of Halstead’s box son after with Cherry caught off his line, but curled his effort wide of the right-hand post.

Cleal then made a good recovery run into the box to block Issa’s shot after he again got free.

But Halstead drew themselves level 12 minutes from time when centre-back Bennett found himself in the right place at the right time to smartly volley home a defensive header from a long punt forward by Cherry from just inside the area.

Chances continued at both ends as Plamer made a good block on Cripps’ follow-up shot on the edge of the area before Pegasus’ defence managed to hack clear a dangerous Older corner.

Bennett made a block from Griffith when the visitors broke dangerously as the clock ticked into stoppage time before Ager hit a wild shot from a good position inside the area.

The visitors were adamant Shelvis should have been sent off for a tug back on Griffith just inside his own half as they broke from a Halstead corner with the referee only deeming it a yellow.

But the hosts were reduced to 10 men in the 96th minute when Gilbert was shown a second yellow for a debatable foul on Samir Rahiti.

Robbie Bennett celebrates scoring the equaliser for Halstead to take the tie to penalties Picture: Mecha Morton
Robbie Bennett celebrates scoring the equaliser for Halstead to take the tie to penalties Picture: Mecha Morton

With the inevitable shootout looming large, Halstead’s management team brough on Matt Travell just ahead of the final whistle and although he tucked away their second penalty, the damage was done by Palmer’s saved opener.

Pegasus’ Jack McPherson ultimately held his nerve to make it five perfect penalties for the visitors and started the celebrations by whipping his shirt off and twirling it round his head as he ran towards the stand before being lost under a sea of green shirts.

Halstead will look to dust themselves off ahead of bouncing back at home to Southend Manor in the second round of the BBC Essex Senior Cup on Wednesday.

Halstead: Cherry (cpt), Coppen, Shelvis (Travell 90+7’), Bennett, Palmer, Cleal, Dutton (Pinkney 64’), Brown, Funbi, Gilbert, Older.

Unused subs: Travell, Morris, Stark, Young.

Booked: Palmer (57’), Gilbert (61’, 90+6’), Schelvis (90+5’).

Stanway: Felgate, J McPherson, Rhaiti, Smith-Walter, Keating, Hayes, Ager (cpt), Marangou, Griffith, Cripps (Kabangu 86’), Issa,

Unused subs: B McPherson, Boon, Kabangu, Phillips, Braddon.

Booked: Issa (77’), Rhaiti (85’).

Attendance: 478.

SuffolkNews Man of the Match: Robbie Bennett. The Halstead centre-back did not deserve to end up on the losing side, having played a key role in both boxes.