For ten tantalising and delightful minutes, Shildon were seriously thinking of a place in the final of the FA Vase – but then it all went horribly wrong.
The Railwaymen cancelled out the two goal deficit from the first leg at Tunbridge Wells by the midway point of the first half, and when Sam Garvie coolly scored the third midway through the second, then there were audible and optimistic strains of Wembley songs in the main stand at Dean Street.
But Tunbridge hit back to score twice to take them instead to Wembley , although Shildon were furious about a last minute goal in extra time that could have forced a penalty shootout in front of a crowd estimated to be well over 1,000.
Dejected Shildon boss Gary Forrest said; “We should have had the game won, and the game was there for the taking at 3-0.
“The game started really well for us with the two goals, but we seemed to switch off a bit towards half time and nearly let them back in it.
“If we could have scored another at 3-0, then that would have made a difference, I don’t think they would have been able to come back from that.
“We let in a soft goal at 3-0, but in the closing stages we did everything but score. We hit the bar, the ball went just past the post, and their keeper pulled off some great saves.
“We thought that the goal by Micky Tait should have been allowed. Somebody filmed it on his I phone, and Micky is onside when the original shot goes towards goal. I don’t know where the assistant has got that from.
“Overall though, I thought we lost the tie in the mud at their place in a game that shouldn’t have taken place. I can see Spennymoor winning the Vase now, they’ll be too good for Tunbridge Wells.”

The Railwaymen, who lost in the quarter finals three years ago, got the start they had hoped for but didn’t dare dream about as they addressed the task of pulling back a two goal deficit from the first leg. Both keepers pulled off some good saves in the first ten minutes, but Shildon got the boost they so badly wanted when Sam Garvie’s hot was blocked by a defender. And the ball came back perfectly for Jamie Owens to sweep past Wells keeper Chris Oladogba from twelve yards.
Owens nearly made it 2-0 from a Sam Garvie lay off, but Oladogba managed to push his shot from ten yards around the post. Adam Johnston found Danny Richmond from the corner, and Richmond’s chip into the box was headed in by Chris McCabe at the far post.
That was one hurdle overcome for Shildon, and maybe mentally they turned off, because towards half time, Wells almost pulled a goal back. Carl Cornell was allowed to turn inside the box and fire just over Keith Finch’s bar, and tall striker Andy Irvine put a diving header just past the post from a deep left wing cross.
Irvine had a goal disallowed for offside in an increasingly tense second half, and that incident seemed to be a major turning point on 63 minutes when Richard Flynn intercepted a break just inside his own half, and his clearance flew perfectly over the Wells defence for Garvie to race away and tuck the ball into the bottom left hand corner. Cue delirium inside Dean Street, and thoughts of a trip to Wembley, even an all Northern League final again.
But the mood changed on 73 minutes, when the dangerous Irvine found space just inside the Shildon box, and hit a left foot shot over Finch that hit the underside of the bar and bounced over the line to make the scores level on aggregate.
However, Shildon piled forward in the last ten minutes. Greulich-Smith hit the bar from an Adam Johnston cross, and Oladogba went full length and superbly saved from McCabe. And Shildon’s agony continued in the last minute when Garvie got around the back and crossed for Greulich-Smith to volley just wide.
There wasn’t much between the teams in extra time until midway through the second period, when Perry Spackman rose above everyone at the far post to head in a corner from Andy McMath to make it 4-3 to them on aggregate. Stunned silence from Shildon supporters.
But then came a moment that Shildon will remember with a huge amount of frustration. A strike by Robbie Briggs was fumbled by Oladogba,  the ball ran loose for a 50-50 between the keeper and Michael Tait, and the keeper’s attempted clearance rebounded off the striker into the net – but Shildon’s celebrations at salvaging a penalty shootout were dashed when the assistant’s flag went up for offside.
Wells manager Martin Larkin said: “For five minutes at 3-0, I thought our chance of winning had gone, but our lads tucked in and worked very hard. We were outplayed, but when it mattered, we got the goals that counted. Shildon were the best team we’ve played for a long time.” They haven’t seen Spennymoor yet!