Written By Declan McCarthy
Vanarama Conference North side North Ferriby United secured a first FA Trophy victory at Wembley as they narrowly beat National Conference Side Wrexham on penalties in what was arguably the greatest FA Trophy final to date.
North Ferriby Manager Billy Heath made his 700th managerial appearance on a special day at Wembley and it will be a day he will not forget as his side triumph in a thrilling FA Trophy final and it happened in the most dramatic way. Winning in a penalty shoot-out as goalkeeper Adam Nicklin was the penalty shootout hero.
Early signs in the match suggested that it wasn’t going to be the fairy tale story Heath and his men would have hoped for as Wrexham stormed into a 2-0 lead through Louis Moult and Jay Harris. They got the Red Dragons on their way but manager Heath put his team’s bad start down to his players nerves.
“The first 20 minutes the occasion got to us (But) we half expected it, we gave Wrexham far too much respect hence the first goal, but after the first 25 minutes the boys (N.Ferriby) made their way into the game and played as we normally do, but I thought the guys showed a tremendous amounts of resilient in their performance”, said the North Ferriby manager.
The Conference North side found it hard to retain or keep possession, but as the game went on the confidence grew around the North Ferriby camp and it showed in their performance on the field.
It was a real end to end contest and from nowhere, pacey Danny Clarke raced through and was brought down in the area by the on-rushing Andy Coughlin and gave referee Michael Oliver no choice but to point to the spot, giving the Villagers captain Liam King the chance to step up for a spot kick which he converted in style, as he rifled his shot into the top left hand corner.
From another break in play, Man of the Match on the day Justin St Juste done well to keep a stray pass in-play and after beating Manny Smith, he delivered a perfect cross for substitute Ryan Kendall as he tapped home the equaliser meaning the tie would go into extra-time.
With the atmosphere tense, 11 minutes went by in a flash in the extra time period, winger St Juste still however caused more problems for Wrexham and their defence and fundamentally made a huge contribution to their 3rd goal that put the Northern side ahead, as it was his deflected cross that fell to Kendall who headed past the Wrexham goalie, and sent the North Ferriby hopes of a cup final success sky high.
At this stage, desperation hit home for Wrexham and the fans that is was not going to be their day, and it didn’t help with the huge amounts of celebrating and cheering from the other end of the stadium, but Wrexham did come back into life after they struck the bar and from great amounts of pressure, North Ferriby opened up at the back as Moult crashed home a spectacular shot which meant it would go to the dreaded penalties.
Both sides converted their first two penalties but it was Goalkeeper Adam Nicklin who deserved the headlines as he saved the deciding penalty. He dived well to deny Ashton and Wrexham any joy of silverware, meaning the Conference North side had defied all odds and produced one of the finest comebacks the trophy is likely to ever see in its history.
The overwhelmed North Ferriby boss said after the game, “It’s unbelievable, it is just a fairy tale and it’s not really sunk in for me. The club as a whole have come a long way (and we are) currently on a steep rise, hopefully from todays victory this can propel us to the next level (as) the chairman is desperate to get into the conference, which is going to be difficult as we can’t even compete financially with clubs even in our own league (The Conference North), he continued to say.
“All I have been saying to the players this week is that we had a chance to win (and) if you believe enough, you’ve got a chance. When we went 2-0 down the game didn’t look that way as we let the game slip through our hands, but the boys have got this unbelievable self-desire and they thought back.”
Wrexham manager Kevin Wilkin spoke after game, “Everyone is pretty numb with the defeat as you’ll understand. To not see that game through is disappointing, but it’s important that those young lads gain something from this experience.
North Ferriby United: 1 Adam Nicklin, 2 Sam Topliss, 3 Josh Wilde, 4 Liam King, 5 Matt Wilson, 6 Danny Hone, 7 Danny Clarke, 8 Russell Fry, 9 Tom Denton, 10 Adam Bolder, 11 Jason St Juste.
Substitutions: 12 Nathan Jarman (for Bolder, 61),; 16 Ryan Kendall for Fry, 80); 14 Nathan Peat for Wilde, 89)
Goals: King (76 pen); Kendall 2 (86, 111)
Wrexham: 1 Andy Coughlin, 2 Neil Ashton, 4 Manny Smith, 5 Blaine Hudson, 6 Joe Clarke, 8 Jay Harris, 9 Louis Moult, 12 Dean Keates, 14 Steve Tomassen, 24 Connor Jennings, 27 Kieron Morris.
Substitutions: 15 Robbie Evans for Keats, 72; 16 Wes York for Morris, 87; 10 Andy Bishop for Clarke, 112.
Goals: Moult 2, (11, 118); Harris 59
Referee: Michael Oliver
(Pictures from northferribyunited.com)