In a season to remember, Congleton Town have made more history. The Bears are semi-finalists in the FA Vase. Yes, you heard that right. 90 minutes from gracing the turf of Wembley Stadium.
A 5-4 win on penalties sees Richard Duffy’s side reach the final four after they and Bury couldn’t be separated after 90 minutes.
The scenes moments after Lewis Short netted the winning penalty epitomised the joy this side has brought to the Bears faithful throughout the campaign while a capacity crowd was the minimum these players deserved for a game of this magnitude.
The game itself was one very reminiscent of the encounter these sides had last month, where Jon Beaumont’s last minute strike salvaged a point for The Bears.
Congleton were rewarded for their early dominance as Dan Needham latched onto an Ethan Hartshorn ball before skipping past two defenders and picking out the bottom corner from the edge of the box spectacularly
The Bears’ lead didn’t last long however, as Bury demonstrated their quality to respond imminently as Benjamin Wharton fired home from a corner.
The momentum shifted in favour of the visitor’s following the leveller. Sajjad Elhassan came closest to scoring a second Bury goal with his edge-of-the-box effort clipping the crossbar.
After the interval Elhassan continued to be a threat. The winger found himself through on goal but was denied by Dave Parton from close range.
The introduction of George Sankey caused numerous issues for Bury and the 18-year-old was margins away from regaining Congleton’s lead.
The winger ran through on goal but a heroic save from Jack Atkinson tipped the ball narrowly wide of the post.
The drama continued until the dying embers as Matty Williams thought he’d won the game for the visitors, and he would’ve done if it wasn’t for an outstanding goal line clearance from Mackenzie Faulkner to send the game to penalties.
Dave Parton, like he does on many occasions, came up with the goods, as his save to deny Harry Brazel provided Lewis Short with the opportunity to confirm Congleton’s semi-final status, and the defender did just that.
It goes without saying that Richard Duffy was on cloud nine after the game as he reiterated how big of a day this is in Congleton Town’s history:
“Great day for the club, great day for the fans and the boys and everyone associated with the club. To go through the way we did in dramatic circumstances is a lot sweeter.
“There was nothing in the game, it could’ve gone either way. Scrappy game but we have come out on top which is great.
“At the beginning of the season we were saying about an FA Vase run but you never quite believe it but when you get to a certain stage you start to think you’ve got a chance to get to the final.”
Richard Duffy on whether he’s building something special here:
“Yeah, yeah we are. Slowly building, the squad of players we have got here, the boys are remarkable. 53 games already this season, with 11 league games left and three semi-finals is unbelievable.”