Heading into the game on the back of two cup wins, Fawley had some unfamiliar confidence ahead of the game after what has been an uninspiring start to life in Wessex league division one.
Swanage & Herston were the opposition in the second qualifying round of the FA Vase having previously beaten Laverstock in an entertaining first round tie. Swanage were flying high in the Dorset Premier division however some considered Fawley favorites because of their higher league status. Any ideas of this being an easy match were quickly put to bed as Swanage looked the more imposing threat in the first 20 minutes.
This early pressure was converted into goals, as Cameron Beard reacted quickest in the box following a set-piece to drill the ball home through a crowded penalty area. The second goal came shortly before half time, and as Fawley applied some pressure they were undone by some rapid wing play from Aaron Atkinson, who stole the ball from Pete Keating on the half way line and raced away from the Fawley defence, and despite the attempts from Lee Burch and Nick Dwyer to stop the goal, the ball trickled agonizingly across the line.
Fawley were given the all too familiar half time rollicking, and it looked like a case of déjà vu having allowed the opposition to take a strong foothold in the game. However the dominant side in the second half seemed to change hands, helped perhaps because of Fawley's superior fitness. Declan Hartigan made the most of some time and space afforded in the box to score from the rebound to reduce the scoreline to 2-1 and claw Fawley back into the cup tie with over 20 minutes remaining.
With time running out and not too many more clear cut chances from either side, a ball into the box was met by the well positioned Declan Hartigan once more to direct his header passed the Swanage stopper, leaving him no chance. Fawley were showing some resilience that had been lacking in previous weeks, and at this stage it seemed the momentum was with the away side to steal the headlines from lowest ranked FA Vase side Swanage.
The Swanage keeper had picked up a knock and it looked like he would have to be replaced by an outfield player, however he decided to remain on the pitch (probably convinced by team mates and manager alike). This proved a tactical masterclass, as Zac Willis won a free-kick on the edge of the box, and Hartigan stepped up with an air of confidence, and the keeper struggling to move this looked like game, set and match! The strike was a sweet one, but the keeper somehow managed to get all of his limbs moving once again to claw the ball out of the top corner, and the rebound was frantically cleared by the defence. "How the F&^% did he manage that?!" was our general feeling, as it looked like extra time beckoned.
.....well, some lacklustre Fawley defending, and a grateful Cameron Beard had other ideas. Swanage won a very late corner and took a couple of token defenders forward, but it was hardly a packed penalty area, as Swanage were probably more worried about getting hit on the counter attack. After surviving some dangerous first half set-pieces, this corner was probably the worst of the lot as it floated out to the edge of the penalty area. However the Swanage skipper rose heighest from a congested D outside the 18-yard box to a not-so-tightly marked Beard to steer home with his right foot. Another memorable game for Swanage, and pandemonium for the home side! Despair and desolation for a Fawley side that huffed and puffed in the second half, but ultimately gave themselves the hardest of challenges for a below par first half performance.
In the cold light of day, this was an entertaining cup tie that had it all. A charismatic ground, and a hard-working close knit Swanage side thoroughly deserved their moment. Must also reserve a special thankyou to @Andythephotographer who has done brilliantly to capture all the key moments in the game, go and check out his snaps!