Sandgrounders through to Wembley final



Formby (66)
Slough Town

Slough Town

Bailey (30)
FA Trophy Attendance: 4895 Unknown
It may take a while, but in time Slough fans will look back at 1998 with a smile and say: "That was the year we had that great trophy run."

But for now the disappointment is just too deep and the pain too raw, as the Rebels were sent home from Southport on Sunday with nothing.

A 1-1 draw was not enough to overturn the 1-0 deficit from the first leg, and the fact that Slough outplayed their opponents and took the lead only to be dumped from the competition by a goal that was 'clearly offside only added insult to injury.

Danny Bailey had given Slough the lead with his first goal for the club after more than 50 games, and Rebels manager Brian McDermott believes his side could have been further ahead. He said: "We thought we deserved to be two or three up in the first half, When we had the wind against us it was harder but we were comfortable and they never looked like scoring."

The only man to threaten the solid Slough defence was Steve Morris who had scored the only goal in the first leg. It was his run down the right in the 68th minute that brought Southport's controversial equaliser, as he beat Gary McGinnis and Terry Angus and slid his shot past Paul Wilkerson. But the final touch came off Kevin Formby. who was standing on the goalline and at least a yard offside.

If Formby had let the ball run in, he might have given the referee a tougher decision — was he interfering with play? But as he got the touch, the decision had to be offside — or so the Slough players, bench and fans alike thought. McDermott said: "It was obvious. The problem was the linesman got intimidated by the crowd behind him. He was doing it all the time."

Just minutes earlier McDermott had remonstrated with the same official after he had put his flag up for an offside, then lowered it as play carried on and the referee failed to notice it. McDermott said: "If he had given that decision they wouldn't have got that goal. The problem is you have to rely on the officials especially in tight games. But what's the point? It happened to us against Cardiff and it's happened again now. You've just got to get on with it. It hurt, and it hurts everybody, the supporters and the players. We are devastated but we've got to look ahead and try to do something."

The aftermath of Southport's equaliser saw Slough players converging on the assistant referee, and both Paul Wilkerson and Gary Brazil were booked for their protests. And as the arguing went on, the referee banished McDermott from the dugout, forcing him to watch the rest of the game from the stands.

But it became harder and harder to watch as Southport got behind the ball, frustrated the Rebels at every attempt. and ran the clock down. The second half had never quite lived up to the promise of the first, but with Slough's lead intact and the scores tied on aggregate, the signs were good for extra time, with the Rebels looking by far the fitter side.

McDermott said: "We would have beaten them, no question. We were looking to get into extra time and we would have beaten them."

The manager had said in the build-up to the game that the players were desperate to get the second leg underway after they felt they had let themselves down at home. And that determination was clear to see from the opening minutes. although it was the home side who had the better of the pressure.

The Slough defence, boosted by the return of Terry Angus and with Matthew Stowell kept in the side as cover for Paul Handyman, weathered the storm well, with Stowell in particular looking very calm as he cleared from Brian Ross and from Steve Morris.

Gary Brazil had the first effort on goal for Slough, dragging his shot wide, and soon afterwards Bolt forced a brilliant save from Southport keeper Billy Stewart after he was put clear on the left.

The opening goal came right on the half hour mark. after Slough's pressure had brought them a corner. Brazil's inswinger was cleared back to him, his second cross was forced back out of the box but only as far as Danny Bailey, who was standing ready to strike. He watched the ball all the way then unleashed a power-driving shot 'that flew into the far corner past the despairing drive of Stewart. It was Bailey's first goal after more than 50 games for the club, and he could not hide his delight as he sprinted straight for the Slough bench to celebrate with his manager.

For the rest of the half Slough kept up the pressure. with Stewart again having to be alert to save from Bolt, and then pulling off another outstanding save to deny Brazil, whose dipping volley from a set-piece free kick looked to be sneaking in under the bar.

The second half was far scrappier. as Southport looked to raise their game and deny Slough the chance to recreate their free-flowing form of the first. The home side began to press forward more, but never looked threatening, with only Morris able to penetrate the defence.

Southport's equaliser was quickly followed by the introduction of Mark West in place of sweeper Gary McGinnis, and West's first effort from range was easily held by Stewart.

Soon afterwards Lloyd Owusu replaced Abbott. but even his pace could not make a difference, as Southport belted every ball that came near them towards the gaps that were opening up at the back for Slough.

The frustration nearly spilled over in the final minute when Browne was booked after he clashed with Tim Ryan, but the final mood was more one of deep, deep disappointment than of resentment.

A draw away from home could have been a good result if things had gone better at home, but even so the manner of defeat was hard to take. McDermott said: "The home leg cost us, but having said that, we went into this and we were solid, we were comfortable. We slaughtered them in the first half."

For the fans, the disappointment was tempered a fraction by the commitment and the skill they had seen from their team, and as they left the ground singing 'We're Slough and we're proud of it', you knew that they meant it.

Southport Lineup

Billy Stewart, Tim Ryan (Phil Bolland), Paul Futcher, Andy Farley, Phil Horner, Brian Butler (Paul Jones), David Gamble, Kevin Formby (Paul Mitten), Dave Thompson, Stephen Morris, Brian Ross.


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