A Draw Thing At Dorking
County’s name will be in the hat for the FA Trophy third-round draw this Monday – although any further progression in the competition will hinge on the outcome of a replay against National League South Dorking Wanderers in SK3 the following night, after the two sides could not be separated in front of a record crowd at Meadowbank.
Adam Thomas put the Hatters ahead just after the hour-mark, but the lead only lasted seven minutes before the hosts levelled through their captain and leading scorer Jason Prior.
The Hatters took to the 3G pitch on an overcast Surrey afternoon showing two changes from their starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Boreham Wood a week previously – with Dan Cowan and returning loanee Ben Jackson replacing, respectively, Tyler Garratt, who, earlier in the week, had agreed an extension to his contract until the end of the season, and Tom Walker, who, following the expiry of his loan from Salford City, would now be plying his trade for AFC Fylde.
Three young players who, four days after the Boreham Wood league fixture, had featured in the Cheshire Senior Cup defeat at Northwich Victoria – namely, Szymon Czubik, Jordan Downing and Jack Hopkins – were named among the seven substitutes permitted for Trophy-ties.
County created the contest’s first chance with four minutes played, when Jackson’s in-swinging corner from the right found Festus Arthur – whose glancing header flew narrowly high and wide.
At the other end, five minutes later, Arthur was dispossessed by James McShane, who squared the ball to Prior – only for the latter to bundle his shot beyond the left post.
McShane opted to try his own luck, but fired well over, when a chance next presented itself for the hosts – before Thomas did likewise from a tight angle to the right of Dorking’s goal, Jordan Keane unleashed a shot from distance that fizzed just wide of the right post, and Ash Palmer connected with another Jackson corner to head beyond the opposite upright.
County’s first two efforts on target, both around the half-hour mark, came courtesy of Elliot Osborne – with Dorking’s Slovakian goalkeeper Slavomir Huk parrying away the first and diving to smother the second.
With the break approaching, Niall McManus went to ground in the County box under an Arthur challenge. But Referee Gary Parsons waved away the hosts’ penalty appeals, and booked their midfielder for simulation. There then remained time in the half’s closing stages for each ‘keeper to save well – with Huk holding on to a Jackson shot, and Ben Hinchliffe stopping a long-range effort from the chastened McManus.
HALF-TIME: Dorking 0, County 0.
The opening 15 minutes or so of the second half produced little of note – save for a yellow card issued to Dorking’s Chairman and Manager Marc White, after he had withheld the ball from Sam Minihan on the other side of the touchline.
But cometh the hour, cometh the man – as Thomas, with 63 minutes on the clock, intercepted a pass across the home area to Huk, and slotted home from six yards to give County the lead.
The hosts came close to levelling within a minute – but Hinchliffe parried a McManus shot from just inside County’s box, and scrambled the ball away before McShane could follow up.
With 20 minutes remaining, they did equalise – with Prior getting on the end of a deep cross from the left by Tom Richards, to poke the ball past Hinchliffe inside the far post at close range.
The Wanderers, with their tails up, looked to settle the tie as they pressed forward. Hinchliffe did well to hold on to a rasping shot by McShane, and Prior headed over from a free-kick on the right – but honours remained even to require an additional contest under the EP lights three evenings hence.
FULL-TIME: Dorking 1 (Prior, 70), County 1 (Thomas, 63).
Team (3-4-1-2): Hinchliffe; Cowan, Palmer, Arthur; Minihan, Turnbull (Capt.), Keane, Jackson; Osborne (Walker, 73); Bell (Mulhern, 68), Thomas.
Unused Subs: Ormson, Czubik, Downing, Garratt, Hopkins.
Booked: Jackson, Thomas.
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.