Injury-time winner ends Wembley dream

IT was a dream for Lowestoft Town to reach Wembley Stadium, a dream to play in the FA Vase final, but it all ended in the most painful way possible - last-minute heartbreak.

IT was a dream for Lowestoft Town to reach Wembley Stadium, a dream to play in the FA Vase final, but it all ended in the most painful way possible - last-minute heartbreak.

They were given the perfect start. A gift of an own goal from Kirkham defender Phil Thompson after only 10 minutes gave Lowestoft a lead they held, by both luck and judgement, for 74 minutes until Kirkham & Wesham manager Mike Fuller pulled out a match-changing substitution.

The 79th minute saw Fuller introduce striker Matt Walwyn and, within 11 minutes plus stoppage time, the substitute had turned the game on its head and sent the Lowestoft players to their knees in defeat.

The scorching temperature and buzzing atmosphere from nearly 15,000 Lowestoft Town fans produced a memorable occasion for everyone - and the match itself produced a contest that swung from end to end. Both sides gave everything they had.

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But in the end, a couple of astute changes from the Lancashire side and a little bit of extra fitness did for Lowestoft, leaving tears of disappointment that it was not quite to be their year.

It had all started so well for Town and, arguably as the game progressed, it seemed as though the Trawler Boys' name was written on the Vase.

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Both sides had a full squad to choose from and Lowestoft made the early running, with Kirkham failing to clear Neil Plaskett's long throw and striker Russell Stock seeing his effort from 10 yards charged down, before Ross King's follow-up was comfortably saved by Peter Summerfield in the Kirkham goal.

And just when Kirkham thought they were getting a foothold in the game, they gifted Lowestoft a dream start when Matty Potter's innocuous cross from the left was inexplicably headed over his own keeper by defender Phil Thompson on 10 minutes, under pressure from Stock.

On such a big occasion, it was simply a present for Town.

Kirkham were trying to press and earned a couple of corners, but Town were playing the better football and using the wide Wembley expanses to their advantage, with Bradley Hough seeing plenty of the ball on the right.

On 30 minutes, Town cashed in their first lucky token. Kirkham striker Sean Paterson found the ball at his feet 15 yards from goal and his right-foot strike hit Town keeper Andy Reynolds' near post, before canning back off the keeper's hand on to the bar and, finally, safely into his arms.

Minutes later, Darren Cockrill sloppily gave the ball away in midfield and as Paterson squared the ball across goal, Town right-back Carl Poppy pulled off a goal-saving block to deny Mark Wane.

Town had their chances too. Stock failed to get a shot away after a lovely through ball from Jamie Godbold, while Godbold and substitute Dale Cockrill tried their luck from long range in the second half.

Kirkham were having more than their share of possession, but Lowestoft were creating the better openings and Hough broke through on 72 minutes, after a neat one-two with Richard Woodrow, before drilling the ball narrowly over the bar.

Barely seconds later, Town cashed in their second and final voucher of luck although it also owed a lot to some incredible defending.

First, Reynolds' completely misjudged a deep Kirkham cross and, with the goal at Paterson's mercy, Saunders and Plaskett pulled out the mother of all last ditch blocks before Poppy charged 15 yards to clear Clark's effort which had goal written all over it.

The Lowestoft defence was putting in the type of performance that had served them so well in the previous rounds, with captain Marcus Saunders winning everything in the air for 90 minutes.

But when Plaskett succumbed to cramp with 10 minutes to go, it forced Chapman and Gallagher into a change in formation and Kirkham took full advantage.

Paterson found himself free on the left and crossed the ball in for substitute Walwyn, who had been on the pitch for only five minutes. His first touch of the match brought the ball under control and he held off the attentions of Dale Cockrill, before using his second touch to bury the ball past Reynolds and give Kirkham the equaliser their second half possession deserved.

And with the game seemingly destined to drift to extra time as both sides huffed, puffed and tired, Paterson broke through Town's static defence and, as everyone waited for the linesman to raise his flag for offside, it never came.

It left the Kirkham striker with a free run at Reynolds' goal and he took his time before squaring the ball to Walwyn, who tapped in for his second to send the Town players to the floor in despair.

Town still had one last chance, Potter heading tamely wide from Godbold's left-wing cross. But by that time, Town had given everything they had and in the end it was not quite enough.

For what seemed to be the first time during this season's FA Vase run, it was not to be.

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