Hadleigh United 2
Oxhey Jets 0
Hadleigh United manager Stuart Crawford nearly had to pull on his boots before his side blasted past Oxhey Jets into the FA Vase fourth round.
The Brettsiders had just 11 fit players at the start of the day, and even then striker Lee McGlone failed a late fitness test, as they scraped together enough substitutes to form a squad.
They even had to book a taxi to ferry new signing Jerrell Layne to the game from work at 3.30pm, but it was Marcus Josiah and Scott Chaplin who struck the decisive goals.
“We managed to convince Sam Banya to play, despite having not featured all season and the fact he is waiting for a cartilage operation, and I thought he was outstanding,” said Hadleigh boss Crawford. “It’s quite scary to think how we’ve managed to put a squad together to win the biggest game in the club’s history for 17 years.
“When the chips are down, like they were, sometimes the team spirit will come through and get you a result.”
Hadleigh were gifted the lead in just the sixth minute when goalkeeper Sam Styles was pressured into a mistake by Banya and the custodian’s clearance fell straight to Josiah, whose first-time shot from 30 yards ended up in the top corner via Styles’ knees.
Styles redeemed himself to keep the Jets’ deficit to just one as he made a superb double block from Josiah before reacting superbly to keep out Mark Goldfinch’s close-range effort from Danny Allen’s corner.
Paul Donnelly also glanced a header from Chaplin’s corner over the bar.
Oxhey, unable to get 37-goal star man Lewis Putman into action, attempted to find a leveller and nearly did when Luke Beardsworth’s deflected effort arced over goalkeeper Dan Heath and dropped just wide.
Putman got his only sight of goal in the 31st minute following a slip in the Hadleigh defence, but he shot straight at Heath from the edge of the area.
The visitors were much the better side after the interval, but failed to create much with Hadleigh defending deseperately to keep them at bay.
Mark Goldfinch should have headed United further in front in the 54th minute, but planted the ball wide of the post, before substitute Layne raced through and was denied by Styles when one-on-one in the 72nd minute.
However, they only had to wait less than 60 seconds before Chaplin latched on to Shane Wardley’s inch-perfect throughball and kept his composure to take a touch and slide it underneath Styles.
Their good work looked as if it would go to waste soon after when Heath was adjudged to have brought down Putman in the penalty area, but Andrew Lomas smashed the resultant spot-kick against the crossbar and United saw out the final minutes with no further scare.
Free Press man of the match: Paul Donnelly.
Hadleigh: Heath, Brown, Wardley, Canfer, Goldfinch, Donnelly, Josiah, Calver, Banya (Layne 49), Chaplin, Allen (Barwick 82). Unused subs: Gaisford, Bell.