Parkway were at their best against well organised, hardworking, resolute opponents
Parkway entertained Hellenic League side Flackwell Heath in the 5thround of the FA Vase hoping to reach the quarter finals for the second successive season. Parkway fielded an unchanged starting line up from last week’s 4thround victory over Clevedon Town. With both sides sounding each other out in the early stages, Parkway made the sharper start having the bulk of possession with the visitors content to absorb the pressure and look to play on the counter. Parkway’s early pressure forced a series of free kicks within 30 or so yards of Flackwell’s 18 yard box most of which lacked neither the direction nor quality of delivery to trouble the visitors solid looking defence.
Neither side were able to create any clear chances with Parkway continuing to probe and look for openings with the Heathens content to defend in depth and in numbers and look to play on the break. The first half chance came on 15 minutes when a Parkway free kick wide on the right was headed back across the 6 yard box by Michael Landricombe to Matt Wright who, on the turn, hooked his effort just over. Parkway’s next attack saw them break along the left with Jamie Lowry and River Allen linking well to set up Ryan Richards whose shot from around 12 yards was comfortably saved by the imposing Aaron Watkins in the visitors goal. Having absorbed the early pressure, Flackwell gradually began to threaten going forward with the tricky Ashley Howell looking lively wide on the left and the strength and movement of Louie Soares testing the Parkway central defenders. Soares had the visitors first chance on 17 minutes after a quick counter attack along the right saw him fire over from around 15 yards.
Parkway continued to have the lion’s share of possession but were unable to find the necessary penetration to get in behind the Flackwell defence with their two central defenders dealing comfortably with any aerial threat. On 18 minutes a long ball from Lowry found Richards whose header from distance was comfortably gathered by Watkins as the Parkway attacking options became more predictable. With Flackwell continuing to look dangerous on the break, on 24 minutes a speculative effort from 30 yards from the increasingly influential Mitchell Parker flew just over. Their next attack shortly after saw them take the lead with their first effort on target.
Parkway failed to clear their lines and a powerful shot from around 18 yards through a crowd of players forced Kyle Moore into a fine parried save only for Jack Taylor to react the quickest and slam home the rebound from around 6 yards. Parkway continued on the offensive looking to use the flanks with Lowry and Mikey Williams linking well on 27 minutes with Lowry’s shot being comfortably saved by Watkins low down at his near post. Play became a bit disjointed with Flackwell pressing hard and closing down the Parkway midfield forcing them to concede possession too easily and being unable to get any real flow into their play going forward.
A Flackwell free kick on 35 minutes saw Parker’s 30 yard effort deflect off the wall and fly narrowly wide with the Parkway defence coming under increasing pressure. However as half time approached, Parkway grabbed the equaliser they just about deserved. A neat exchange along the right saw the ball find Richards who was tripped just inside the penalty as he looked to turn for a no arguments penalty which he got up to convert with his powerful strike sending Watkins the wrong way. A dour, cagey first half with Parkway failing to convert their territory and possession into chances with Flackwell looking solid and well organised defensively, competitive in midfield and dangerous on the break converting the one real clear cut chance they created. The second half continued in a similar vein with play continuing to fluctuate and the Heathens making an early substitution on 49 minutes with Harrison Bayley replacing Cory Hathaway. On 55 minutes a neat passage of play along the right between Harrison Davis and the persistent Richards forced a corner which again was comfortably defended.
With the Heathens now looking the more dangerous and Howell and Soares continuing to cause problems, Davis received a yellow card as Howell looked to break clear just inside the Parkway half. Flackwell then saw a header flash just wide from a corner as the pressure increased with Parkway being forced deeper and looking second best in midfield and unable to gain any forward momentum. On 59 minutes another Flackwell shot was deflected over the bar for another corner with the Parkway defence coming under increasing pressure and mistakes at the back starting to creep in. Flackwell were now the more fluent outfit, winning most of the second balls, forcing Parkway into mistakes in possession and looking the more likely to score. Parkway made their first change on 66 minutes with Shane Krac replacing Billy Palfrey as they looked to regain some midfield control with Flackwell’s Devontae Romeo replacing the impressive Howell at the same time The visitor’s pressure finally paid off as they regained the lead on 71 minutes.
Parkway failed to clear their lines and conceded a free kick centrally around 25 yards out. Soares kick cannoned off the wall and with Parkway slow to react to clear the loose ball, the alert Parker pounced hammering a superb right foot shot into the roof of the net from around 20 yards giving Moore no chance. Craig Veal immediately replaced the tiring Wright as Parkway looked to inject more pace up front. With Parkway now pushing forward looking for an equaliser, a Williams header from a corner on 75 minutes was easily saved by Watkins. The game then took a dramatic twist with Krac, having been on for only 9 minutes, being given a straight red card for a reckless and unnecessary challenge in the centre of midfield with the Flackwell player going nowhere. Whilst not exactly a game changer, it made the last 15 minutes an even harder task for Parkway. James Mansfield then saw yellow as Parkway pushed forward more without really testing Watkins with the visitor’s defence generally remaining in control. Parkway made their final change on 78 minutes with Levi Landricombe replacing the hard working Williams.
Flackwell made their final change on 82 minutes with Simeon Weeks replacing Soares. With Parkway continuing to push for an equaliser they became stretched at the back allowing Flackwell to exploit the spaces between the lines enabling them to increase their lead on 84 minutes. A cross from the left was poorly defended resulting in the ball falling to substitute Weeks who fired home a low shot into the bottom corner from around 10 yards. Game over? Not quite. Almost straight from the kick off a long ball forward found Levi Landricombe who cleverly lofted his effort over Watkins to give Parkway renewed hope. Parkway now threw even more players forward looking for another equaliser but they lacked the guile or smartness to penetrate the packed Flackwell defence who were happy to hit long clearances into the empty spaces deep inside the Parkway half. From one such clearance in the 4th minute of stoppage time, substitute Mansfield was able to race clear and seal the game with his shot eluding the exposed Moore with what turned out to be virtually the last kick of the game. Individually and collectively Parkway were not at their best today nor were they allowed to be by well organised, hardworking, resolute opponents who, particularly in the 2ndhalf, were the better side and deserved their victory. They will now travel to United Services Portsmouth who beat Tavistock 3-1 today in next Saturday’s quarter final.
1 Moore, 2 Davis, 3 Lane, 4 Lowry, 5 Farkins ©, 6 M Landricombe, 7 Williams (L Landricombe 78), 8 Allen, 9 Wright (Veal 71), 10 Palfrey (Krac 66), 11 Richards
Unused subs: Colwell, Bentley
And so another truncated season comes to an end in rather strange circumstances playing behind closed doors on an artificial surface 30 miles from home. Who would have guessed that back in August 2020? Credit should however go to the staff, management and players for their efforts in a difficult, stop start season in which it must have been hard to remain fit, focussed and motivated amidst all the uncertainty. 17 games have been played in 3 competitions with just 2 defeats, the one today and the other in the FA Cup back in August.
Of 13 league games played before the league’s curtailment in December, there were 11 wins and just 2 draws seeing Parkway top the Western League table. With the combined 2019/20 and 2020/21 seasons results added together, that gave them an average points per game of 2.61, the highest of all the 14 step 5 leagues in the country, an excellent achievement. With the FA Council having now approved the restructuring recommendations at steps 3 to 6 of the non league pyramid, Parkway therefore become eligible to be “upwardly moved” and now have to wait until the 17thMay to see if their application has been successful and if they will be playing their football in the Southern League Division 1 South (step 4) next season. In the meantime the redevelopment of Bolitho Park gathers pace with the pitch replacement now completed and seeded and Garry Turner eagerly waiting for the grass to grow and praying for rain! Provided all goes well, it is hoped pre season friendlies can commence as planned and it is also hoped that next season, in whichever league Parkway will be playing, will be a fully completed one unlike the previous two. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading the reports as much as your correspondent has enjoyed compiling them. Enjoy the break and see you next season.