Fisher 1-1 Spelthorne Sports
Saturday 3rd September 2022
3.00pm kick off
Emirates FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Scorer: Manny Shoderu (pen – 65 mins)
Photo credit: Don Blandford. See the full set of images on his flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/donblandford/
Fisher looked to reach the second qualifying round of the Emirates FA Cup for the first time since reforming in 2009, when they took on Spelthorne Sports at St Pauls in one of only four all First Qualifying Round ties. It was both teams though that will go into Monday’s draw as the game ended in a 1-1 draw and will see the sides replay on Tuesday.
Manager Ajay Ashanike faced a struggle to get a side out with injuries and unavailability depriving him of seven expected starters. He faced the dilemma of putting round pegs in square holes in the team’s usual formations or using an unfamiliar set up to allow more players to play in their natural positions. Opting for the later saw Fisher line up with three at the back and a five-man midfield with Michael Sarpong and Foday Jaiteh as wing backs.
Fisher started brightly enough in the new shape with Prince Imoru looking at ease in the back three and carrying the ball well to link with the midfield, although Spelthorne also looked bright going forward and Joseph Adewunmi needed to be on hand to make some timely tackles.
On ten minutes Fisher fell behind as a deep corner was headed back into the danger area where Jaiteh headed it away but only as far as Josh Remedios whose scuffed shot bounced into the surface and looped up via a deflection off Sarpong’s head into the roof of the net. Before they had recovered Fisher almost slipped further behind as a free header dipped just over the bar and the injury crisis looked like it was paying its toll.
However Jacob Katonia sparked life into Fisher and a penetrating run from deep inside his own half saw him waltz past several tackles and with Isaac Thompson’s effective dummy run a route to goal opened up with Katonia powering into the box only to see his shot blocked by a defender with the keeper looking beaten and the resulting corner amount to nothing. The effort lifted Fisher and seconds later they had another great chance when Imoru released Thompson whose low cross was met by a combination of Asante and Shoderu but the offside flag anyway as the ball flashed wide.
Spelthorne’s aerial threat looked their best chance of adding a second and another corner almost undid the Fish again as a header past just wide of the upright shortly before the break. On the stroke of half time Fisher had their best chance of the first period and Asante’s flicked header from Imoru’s centre was smartly saved low down by the Spelthorne keeper, who had only been drafted into the side an hour before kick-off after their regular keeper failed a fitness test.
The second spell saw a more determined side emerge with some strong words in their ear, not from manager Ashanike but injured player Darnelle Bailey-King – they were not going to go out the cup meekly! Whatever he said worked summoned up the fabled Fisher spirit as from the restart Jacob Katonia got free down the left and cut the ball back, but Asante could not find the finish.
It was Asante’s last meaningful involvement as he joined the mounting injury list limping off ot be replaced by assistant manager Luke With, who gave Fisher a better base in the final third with his hold up play and presence.
A coming together between Sam Fitzgerald ad a Spelthorne forward when shepherding the ball out for a goal kick saw both players receive a yellow card with a second Spelthorne player who ran twenty yards to become involved and push Fitzgerald to the floor fortunate to only receive the same punishment.
Fisher continued to push for an equaliser and Isaac Thompson raced onto a lofted pass from Nader Zeddini and looked to lob the advancing keeper but just under hit his effort and saw the keeper grab the ball at the second attempt.
A bizarre incident then looked like it might take the wind out of the Fisher sails as Katonia tried to escape down the left wing despite his shirt being pulled of his back. The referee appeared to be trying to allow advantage but with his shirt firmly held and the free kick finally awarded Katonia gave a Beckham style kick out at the defender with minimal contact and the referee issued him a red card and the Spelthorne player getting a yellow.
From the resulting free kick Thompson found Luke With’s head but the keeper was able to tip away the effort for a corner. A deep delivery found Sam Fitzgerald at the back post and pouncing on the rebound of his header he slammed a shot against the underside of the bar but in trying to stop Shoderu getting to the rebound a defender tripped the Fisher midfielder and the referee pointed straight to spot. Shoderu picked himself up and confidently dispatched the spot kick to bring Fisher back on level terms.
Spelthorne fought back with a good spell of pressure resulting in several dangerous corners being swung over but the Fisher defence stood strong and despite being down to ten Fisher continued to push forward, encouraged by the Spelthorne keeper picking up an injury which affected his mobility.
Conor Darwish came on for Shoderu as Fisher tried to use fresh legs to seal the tie. Thompsons aw a good effort blocked by the keeper after With’s run and pass had fed him and Sarpong failed to get enough purchase on a long-range effort to unduly trouble the hobbling custodian.
The final whistle signalled the sides must replay on Tuesday night and it may be a case of the side with the most effective physio team winning through as both teams will need to nurse their injured and carry tired bodies into an extra game.