Full-time: Sholing 1 West Auckland 0
THE run had to be broken at some point and unfortunately for West Auckland, they couldn’t make it a sixth Northern League FA Vase win in as many years.
After five consecutive wins the Vase has a new home and it couldn’t be any further from the North-East after Sholing took the silverware back to Southampton with a 1-0 win at Wembley.
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It is the first time since 2008 that the Vase has not come back to the region with West falling at the final hurdle Whitley Bay, Dunston UTS and Spennymoor have all overcome in recent years.
Peter Dixon’s men arrived under the famous Wembley arch with unfinished business after their defeat to Dunston in the final two years ago, but once again they left disappointed and dejected despite producing a much better performance than they did first time round.
For any team, a trip to play at the home of English football is special, but after their FA Amateur Cup defeat in 1961 followed by two FA Vase losses, West must feel like it isn’t meant to be.
They had their fair share of chances in front of a crowd of 5,431 in the capital, but Marvin McLean’s 71st minute strike was enough to win a game that for large spells looked as if it would have to be settled by extra-time and penalties.
There was precious little between the sides throughout proceedings and in the end a cutting edge in front of goal was enough to win the ‘north v south’ battle.
“We could make all the excuses in the world but the bottom line is we didn’t put the ball in the net and we had a lot of opportunities to do,”
admitted West boss Dixon.
“I thought their goalkeeper was the difference really, I thought we did enough to win it. I’m just disappointed because I feel like we’ve let a lot of people down again.
“It was a typical cup final won by fine margins. They got a wicked deflection for the goal and we weren’t as fortunate as they were.
“I said before the game if we gave a good account of ourselves it would be more acceptable and I think we did. I thought we were the better side, whereas two years ago we didn’t turn up.
“It’s doesn’t make it any easier but I don’t think we could have done any more really in terms of our effort and performance. It just wasn’t to be in front of goal.
“We hit the bar right at the end and the keeper has made some good saves. The nature of the goal was hard to take.”
Sholing seemed to settle on the big stage better than their North-East opponents, but as early as the fifth minute West could have taken the lead.
West Auckland manager Peter Dixon as Sholing lift the Vase
A slide-rule pass from Denis Knight fed John Campbell through the middle, but the former Darlington forward fired his shot at Matt Brown.
The Sholing keeper made two more saves to keep the County Durham side at bay in the opening 45 when he denied Shaun Vipond and Robbie Briggs from long range.
At the other end, the Hampshire side were exploiting space on the left through the lively McLean but a combination of Jordan Nixon and poor finishing prevented them taking the lead.
After the break, Tyronne Bowers, Lee Wort and Barry Mason all had opportunities for Sholing, but again the stand out chance fell to West with Mattie Moffatt blazing over from close range after taking the ball down and turning inside the area.
The decisive moment came in the 71st minute when McLean received a long ball forward and raced into the box. It looked as though Lewis Galpin had done enough to thwart the attack when he made a last ditch challenge, but instead the ball took a deflection and looped over Nixon into the far corner.
A cruel schedule of five games in the week before Saturday’s final was evident amongst West’s players, but they pushed for an equaliser right until the end with Knight and Galpin both having opportunities to force the game into extra time.
Knight’s, a spectacular freekick, was met by an equally impressive save from Brown but in the dying seconds Galpin saw a powerful header blast off the bar from a corner and Dixon admitted it was as if it just wasn’t meant to be for his side.
He said: “It’s disappointing.
There are a few people that have been there before and it seems like it was predetermined we wouldn’t win it.
“We’ve let the fans down again and that’s twice in three years.
“I know how much it means to them and we can only apologise for that.”