Hopefully Yeovil aren't di**s about it.
Warrington Rylands 1906 FC Buildbase FA Vase Semi-Final v Walsall Wood FC 15/05/2021
Whatever you think of BT Sports it was a stroke of genius to re-arrange the County-Torquay match to Sunday. This gave me the best of both worlds so I could cover Rylands FA Vase semi-final match in my home town.
The 'dare to dream' story continues with Warrington Rylands 1906 FC drawn again at home against Walsall Wood FC, with the winner booking the ultimate, a place in the Final against Berkshire based team Binfield FC, at Wembley. This has to be every non-league players dream and even more a once in a lifetime experience.
Both clubs have made history in getting so far in the competition and as we all know there can only be one winner so the stakes are high.
It will be interesting to see how the cup fever nerves kick in and who comes out on top.
I've never heard of Walsall Wood FC until recently but they started life in 1915 as 'Walsall Wood Ebenezer Primitive Methodists'. Another team in the same vein is Gainsborough Trinity.
Walsall Wood now play in the ‘Total Motion Midland League Premier Division'; at level 9 of the EFL pyramid and not surprisingly are known as 'the Wood'. They finished mid table before the season was curtailed.
The team kit is a red shirt with a white band on each sleeve and red shorts with a vertical stripe.
Their home is Oak Park but it's been 'temporarily' renamed to ‘The Boston Bailey Group Stadium’, and most likely part of a necessary and welcome financial sponsorship. Having said that I am not sure what I would think if Edgeley Park was renamed; certainly not happy.
Manager Darren Byfield started out at Aston Villa in 1997 and played as a forward for a further 17 clubs in a career spanning 20 years (Walsall 142 appearance in 2 spells, Gillingham 67, Rotherham United 65 to name a few).
He also played for Jamaica 6 times scoring 1 goal. Byfield was married to pop singer Jamelia in 2008 but divorced a year and a half later.
Jamelia - Superstar
Byfield took over at Walsall Wood in September 2018 but left to manage Alvechurch FC in May 2019. He
then returned to Walsall Wood for a second spell in January 2020. Previous managers include Gary Birch and Kris Taylor.
How did they get to the semi-final? They beat Anstey Nomads 5-4 on penalties in the 5th round and followed up with a 2-1 win against Leighton FC in the quarterfinals. I have also never heard of either of the opponents until now but with all the non-league clubs out there it must be groundhopping paradise, although it would take a lifetime to visit them all.
Same question for Rylands. They beat West Auckland Town (1-1) 3-1 on penalties in the 5th round. They followed that up with a 1-0 win against Hebburn Town in the quarters.
A welcome boost was Wayne Rooney showing up at Rylands Thursday night team training and sharing how he prepares for big games in terms of the physical and mental side. Could this be owner Paul Stretford's (Wayne’s agent) masterstroke?
One thing for certain is Manager Dave McNabb comment that it will be “the hardest game of football Rylands will have ever played".
Should the match go to penalties Rylands have an experienced shot stopper Graeme McCall (ex-Leicester and Everton) to rely on and he played a vital part in the shoot outs against Jarrow FC and also Shildon FC.
I am looking forward to an ‘end to end’ game, hopefully not marred too much by the wind and rain weather - nothing new there in terms of the weather. There is some truth that come 3pm it chucks it down and stops as the final whistle blows.
The Wood started on the front foot and a mistake at the back from Doyle on 5 minutes left Atherton one on one with GK McCall who pulled of a fantastic reflex save with his leg to prevent Walsall Wood taking the lead.
Wood had more possession than Rylands in the first 20 minutes, possibly due to nerves playing a part.
Rylands made it count when they struck on 25 minutes on a counter attack. Scarisbrick played through top scorer Drummond who calmly rounded GK Wren to slot the ball into the net and make it 1-0.
Just before half time Rylands Kenny put in a great tackle to close down a Wood attack, and a few minutes later Drummond put in a ball across the box which Wren pushed away.
Luckily the rain stopped for most of the second half.
Rylands started well with Nevitt shooting just wide. Rylands striker Milne was then brought down in the area and referee David Richardson (who I am sure I have seen at a few County matches), had no hesitation on blowing his whistle for a penalty.
Nevitt stepped up and sent GK the wrong way to put
Rylands 2-0 up.
Rylands continued to up the pressure and a few minutes later Nevitt almost made it 3. Two corners followed but Rylands were unable to capitalise.
Nevitt continued to be lively and burst through on goal but Wren pulled off a superb save.
Wood had a shot but it flew high over the bar.
Top goal scorer Drummond then shot off target.
It remained 2 nil as the teams played out 4 minutes added time.
With 2 minutes remaining Wood substitute Towks hit a 25 yard screamer which curled into the top right hand side of the net to make it 2-1. Two nail biting minutes
followed before the referee blew the whistle to end the match.
Congratulations to the players and management team of Dave McNabb and Fraser Ablett on the fantastic achievement of getting to Wembley. They have really the club on the map.
What an emotional day!
My thanks go to Rylands FC for allowing me to cover their last 3 FA Vase matches. It have really enjoyed it.
All photos @machinsports