Scarborough Athletic and Jonathan Greening suffer FA Cup despair as Forest Green Rovers snatch 1-1 draw and replay

Scarborough Athletic v Forest Green Rovers (Photo: Richard Ponter)
Scarborough Athletic v Forest Green Rovers (Photo: Richard Ponter)

He has a Champions League winners’ medal as a permanent reminder.

Greening, then a 20-year-old hopeful, watched from the bench as fellow substitutes Teddy Sheringham and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s famous late strikes sealed Manchester United’s 1999 Treble against a crestfallen Bayern Munich.

During the Seadogs’ 1-1 FA Cup first round draw against Forest Green on Saturday, though, it was a 92nd-minute equaliser that cost Greening’s men a £41,000 fortune in the form of a prize money windfall
after Alex Wiles’ deserved first-half opener had been cancelled out by teenage sub Olly Sully’s first goal in senior football.

Scarborough-born Greening was left to reflect on how “absolutely devastated” his team were to be on the receiving end of football’s “cruel” side but, equally, could not hide his pride after his part-time, sixth-tier outfit had bettered their League Two opponents for long periods in front of a sold-out Flamingo Land Stadium.

“I really wish we could have held on and won the game, but it wasn’t to be and, sometimes, football can be cruel,” he conceded. “The boys are absolutely devastated, because they put an absolute shift in and
I’m really proud of them.

“We’re a part-time club and might not have a lot of money, but we showed we have a lot of heart and we’ve just got to show the same work ethic, team spirit and passion now in the replay.”

Scarborough face a nine-hour, 450-mile round trip for that midweek rematch. Despite that arduous prospect, Greening’s men should not be discounted.

The Seadogs have already progressed past Darlington and Oxford City on the road in reaching the first round proper for the first time since the club’s formation in 2007.

Saturday’s game, therefore, was the biggest the coastal town has witnessed since the previous incarnation of the club made waves in the tournament 20 years ago.

Back then, Chelsea were narrow 1-0 winners thanks to a John Terry goal with the likes of Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink also lining up for the visitors.

In contrast, Forest Green named a starting XI that boasted just two league goals between them all season with former Premier League marksman Troy Deeney only travelling in a coaching capacity.

Scarborough started the tie full of purpose. Lewis Maloney’s dead-ball prowess is renowned in National League North circles and the excitement was palpable when he was presented with a
free-kick 25 yards from goal early on but, on this occasion, he fired too high.

Lone striker Frank Mulhern then saw a shot blocked before teacher Wiles handed powder-puff Rovers a lesson in attacking impetus when he demonstrated nimble feet to fashion space in the away box and drilled into ex-Harrogate keeper James Belshaw’s bottom-right corner from 10 yards in the 27th minute.

As the half drew to a close, rampaging right-wing back Kieran Weledji then had a great chance to double the advantage but fired straight at Belshaw after Mulhern and Wiles had combined to carve through Forest Green’s left channel.

The visitors enjoyed more possession after the break, but still struggled to find gaps as Scarborough defended with discipline and focus.

Just past the hour, a dipping Callum Jones effort cleared Ryan Whitley’s crossbar and, midway through the half, an unmarked Jacob Maddox side-footed wastefully wide after being picked out eight yards from goal by Charlie McCann.

Nathan Holland also stung Whitley’s hands but, as the clock ticked down, Scarborough also became an increasing threat on the counter-attack.

One of those breaks saw veteran striker Michael Coulson – a former FA Cup semi-finalist with Barnsley – pass up a chance to bear down on the away goal in favour of heading for the corner flag after the fourth official’s board had signalled a minimum of three additional minutes.

Agonisingly, just moments later, Forest Green threw a hopeful ball into the home box and McCann’s square pass across the face of goal was tapped in from a yard by Sully.

If Greening had echoed the words of his former treble-winning manager, albeit with a very different sentiment, nobody would have blamed him. “Football, bloody hell!”

Scarborough Athletic: Whitley, Weledji, Gooda, Qualter, Thornton, Brown, Wiles (Tear 66), Maloney, Purver, Colville, Mulhern (Coulson 73). Unused substitutes: Green, Durose, Bancroft, Cracknell.

Forest Green: Belshaw, Bernard, Bunker, Welch (Holland 64), Robson, Jones (Bendle 90), McCann, Jenks (Sully 82), Robertson, Maddox, Omotoye. Unused substitutes: Thompson, Deeney, Searle, McKenzie.

Referee: M Edwards (Durham).