Stockton came from behind to knock West Auckland out the FA Vase in extra time.
A double from Jamie Owens turned the game on it’s head after Anthony Bell had given West a half time lead.
Both sides had plenty of chances in an entertaining match and it looked like the tie was heading for a replay before Owens snatched a 117th minute winner.
The hosts had started the better, dominating the early stages in front of a record 537 strong crowd. Kevin Hayes saw a snapshot held by Adam McHugh before a towering header was cleared off the line. Max Craggs fired past the post then went closer when he forced McHugh to parry his free kick in the 15th minute.
West responded and grew into the game with Aaran Wearmouth just unable to get the ball across to an unmarked Nathan Fisher. The pair were able to link up in the 31st minute for West’s best opening however Fisher was unable to find the target.
However a minute later West were celebrating taking the lead through an excellent move that saw Ben Wood’s clever back heel find Anthony Bell and he drilled his first time effort in at the near post.
The goal helped West grow in confidence and they came close to a second in the 37th minute – Fisher cutting inside and seeing his goalbound effort headed away, with Wearmouth firing the follow up inches over the bar.
Both sides had chances before the half time whistle with a Stockton corner being blocked on the line and James Ward hitting his effort over the top. At the other end Fisher was denied by the outstretched leg of Liam Jordan with the keeper then watching Adam Mitchell’s close range free kick flash over the bar with the final kick of the half.
Stockton began the second half in similar vein to the first with marksman Jamie Owens being denied by a good save from McHugh with a shot on the turn. Dale Mulligan headed over when well placed before Wood saw Jordan deny him West’s second.
McHugh continued to thwart the Anchors with another great save with a header from a corner, saving from Hayes’ low effort and then tipping over Craggs’ drive. In between Wearmouth had a shot parried away.
Owens fired a warning shot wide in the 70th minute whilst sub Amar Purewal nearly had an instant impact with Fisher not quite able to touch in the cross. Owens however levelled the scores in the 72nd minute when a corner fell kindly to him and he fired in from close range.
West hit back instantly with Fisher’s low strike saved then both he and Bell saw shots blocked in quick succession. Stockton ended on top but unable to force any clear cut chances as the 90 minutes grew to close. The full time whistle was somewhat delayed with the referee being replaced because of injury.
The game went into extra time and with it both sides tried to find a winner to take them into the last 16. For West, the goal threat came from Fisher with the top scorer seeing an effort well saved on the turn and fired over another opening. Hayes was denied again by the impressive McHugh who flew full length to palm away the wingers free kick.
The final 15 started with Purewal denied by a great block then he saw a header clawed away. The hosts then came within inches of a lead when Hayes cut inside an his superb effort curled inches the wrong side of the post.
The Anchors were not to be thwarted and there was widespread celebration as they grabbed the late winner when a West clearance rebounded to set Hayes clear on the right and he picked out an unmarked Owens who turned the ball home. And with that West’s hopes of another Wembley appearance were dashed.
The action packed game unfortunately ended on a sour note with a flashpoint leading to red cards for Nathan Mulligan and Hayes of Stockton and Bell for West.
We would like to wish Stockton Town all the best in the next round.
Team: McHugh, Morris, Richardson (Galpin 18′), Cobain, Parker, Mitchell, Bell, Wade (Francis 98′), Fisher, Wood (Purewal 70′), Wearmouth
Subs Not Used: Colquhoun, Doninger
Goal: Bell (32′)