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Marley’s FA Cup magic pushes Slimbridge into next round

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FA Cup Extra Preliminary Round

Flackwell Heath 0

Slimbridge 1

Experienced Marley Thomas scored the only goal of the game to push Slimbridge into the first qualifying round of the FA Cup, writes Tim Blake.

They needed to dig deep in the second half to contain a very impressive-looking Flackwell Heath side, who look certain to be up at the top end of the Spartan South Midlands League come next May based upon their display. 

Slimbridge made a good positive start, and Ben McLean was just off target with an effort five minutes in before, on ten minutes, they scored what proved to be the only goal of the game – Will Hawes dispossessed a Flackwell defender on the Swans’ right flank, and played a through ball to Edji Mbunga in the Heathen’s box. Mbunga beat his man and took the ball to the byline before drilling it back across goal, where Thomas lifted his shot over the two defenders on the line to put the visitors into the lead. 

The Swans were having the better of possession at this point, and Mbunga was causing problems for Flackwell down the Slimbridge right. 

It was 22 minutes before the hosts had their first effort on goal – A Free Kick into the Slimbridge box saw Callum Bunting get his head to the ball, but his header was straight at Lewis Adams and easily gathered. 

A minute later, Flackwell were appealing for a penalty when Jamie Ayres went down in the box after a challenge from Nathan Dennis, but Referee Thomas Ratheram booked the Flackwell man for a dive. 

At the half-hour mark, Colin Mugoya-Tobingwa was off target with another Flackwell effort, but Slimbridge were still in control of the game. 

Mbgunga set up Ethan Dunbar as Slimbridge broke forward again, and his effort was just too high as Slimbridge pressed for a second goal. 

Flackwell had a couple of chances just before the break, but Lucas Surpanu’s effort was deflected wide by a good block from Jacob Geddes, and then Duarte Surpanu saw his effort matched by a good save from Adams, to see the Swans go in a goal to the good at the half. 

Flackwell came out with a renewed purpose in the second period, but Slimbridge had a golden chance to add their second ten minutes in, when a scramble in the Flackwell box saw Will Hawes miskick when it looked easier to convert the chance. 

On 66 minutes, Flackwell were denied an equaliser as the ball pinged around the Swans’ six-yard box, at one point cannoning back into play off the crossbar before Slimbridge managed to get the ball clear. 

Six minutes later, a superb 25 yard goalbound strike from Flackwell’s Charlie Lassoso was met by an equally impressive save from Adams, who somehow managed to tip the ball round the post as it headed for the top corner. 

Flackwell now had the ascendancy, and Slimbridge had to defend a series of corners as the hosts pressed for an equaliser. Alan Akerman was just wide with a header from a Flackwell corner, and a series of great blocks from the Swans’ back line saw them get through six stoppage time minutes to book their place in the next round, to the great delight of their travelling fans who had travelled on the coach up from Gloucestershire. 

Manager Tom Speers was understandably delighted at the final whistle: “It was amazing, it feels good. I love winning, it’s what I do this for, two and a half or three hours on a coach, and after Tuesday with that disappointment of not getting at least a point at Cinderford, we had something to prove today – to ourselves, not to anybody else.” 

Slimbridge: Adams, Geddes, Lawrence, Turner, Dennis, Francis (Ford 75), Mbunga, McLean, Hawes (Shutt 64), Dunbar, Thomas (Bevan 64) 

Goals: Thomas 10 

Supporters’ Man of the Match: Toby Lawrence

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