Penalty shootout victory sends Mildenhall Town through in the FA Vase at the expense of rivals Newmarket Town
Mildenhall Town are through to the first round proper of the Buildbase FA Vase for the first time since 2015/16 following tonight's dramatic 7-6 penalty shootout victory away at rivals Newmarket Town.
The two sides could not be split during 120 minutes at Recreation Way on Saturday, when Valter Rocha's opener for hosting Mildenhall was cancelled out by Ben Robinson's equaliser.
And that was the case again this evening, although on this occasion Newmarket had to rally from a 3-1 half-time deficit to force extra-time and then penalties in an encounter that had a bit of everything.
Rocha set the tone for an entertaining night by opening the scoring in just the second minute, latching on to Joe Asensi's inch perfect through ball before showing good composure to round advancing Newmarket goalkeeper Alex Archer and fire into an empty net.
That was the Portuguese's fourth goal since signing for Mildenhall last month, with all of them coming in this competition.
It was 2-0 in the 15th minute as a familiar face to Newmarket scored his first goal since joining the away side in the summer. Scott Chaplin's left-wing corner flashed across the face of goal and Casey Phillips was on hand to turn the ball home from close range.
The home side were second best for much of the early exchanges but they sprung into life in the 26th minute when Ross Paterson played in Lewis Whitehead, who saw his powerful rising effort well saved by Jake Hayhoe.
But while Hayhoe came to his side's rescue on that occasion, 11 minutes later he was conceding a penalty for a foul on the busy Whitehead. Captain Jack Watson stepped up to take the resultant spot kick and made no mistake, sending the visiting goalkeeper the wrong way.
The goal breathed some life into Newmarket, but they were hit with a sucker punch three minutes before the break as Mildenhall restored their two-goal advantage.
Chaplin's speculative shot from 20 yards out took a deflection and while players from both sides stood still waiting for the ball to drop, Jack Brame was already on the move and he pounced to score left footed from a narrow angle.
Faced with the deficit, Newmarket had little option but to get on the front foot in the second half and it almost paid dividends in the 53rd minute. Ethan Murphy's long throw from the right was flicked on for the unmarked Paterson, but he planted his header from close range straight at a grateful Hayhoe.
The introduction of player-manager Michael Shinn provided Newmarket with a bit more control from midfield and it was from his right boot that they won a second penalty six minutes from time. The referee spotted an infringement from his deep free-kick and with Watson having been substituted, Whitehead took on the responsibility from 12 yards and made no mistake.
Mildenhall skipper Luke Butcher was sin binned for his protests against the awarding of the penalty and without him Mildenhall looked ragged, so there was little surprise when the equaliser arrived in the 87th minute.
A Newmarket corner was not fully cleared and when it dropped to Whitehead, his low shot took a wicked deflection that left Hayhoe helpless.
Both sides went close to winning it in stoppage time as a hectic second half drew to a close – Shinn firing over for Newmarket and Mildenhall's Rocha's doing similar at the other end.
And so it was to extra-time and with so much riding on those added 30 minutes, clear goalscoring chances were unsurprisingly at a premium.
Ben Robinson had an opening of sorts just two minutes after the restart with a clever flick from Shinn's cross, but despite appearing to be going close initially the ball ended up drifting a couple yards wide of the target.
The best opportunity went the way of Mildenhall in the 113th minute when substitute Aaron Turner slipped a pass through for another replacement Kaine Manels. The youngster squeezed himself past Archer, but his goalbound shot was well blocked by a retreating Murphy.
In the end 240 minutes worth of football could not separate these two, and the spot kicks even went all the way to sudden death before Newmarket's Blake Kicks decisively sent his effort crashing against the crossbar.
Mildenhall will now take on Crawley Green at home in the next round on Saturday, October 12.
Newmarket: Archer, Murphy, Kicks, Bennett, Seymour, J Robinson, B Robinson, Paterson, Whitehead, Watson (Shinn 64), Landshoff
Mildenhall: Hayhoe, Yallop, Asensi, Butcher, Weavers, Phillips, Chaplin (Turner 105), Steed (Robinson 118), Brame (Nolan 98), Rocha, Canfer (Manels 72)
More by this authorLiam Apicella