This FA Trophy Preliminary Round tie was the first meeting between the two clubs since February 2002 and Hungerford, many people’s favourites to win the Evo-Stik South & West division, came to Holloways Park following an impressive FA Cup win at Premier Division Banbury United, and so it looked set to be a tough test for Steve Bateman’s side.
Slough opted to make two changes from the beat which knocked Lingfield out of the FA Cup, bringing in David Deeney and Sean Sonner for David Woozley and Adam Logie, the defence reverting to a back four. Within four minutes of the match kicking off, Slough took the lead – Ed Smith, in good goal scoring form at present, pouncing to finish after Hungerford failed to properly clear Sonner’s ball into the middle.
The early goal proved to be important as Slough found themselves on the back foot for much of the remainder of the first half and, whilst Hungerford had a lot of the ball around the Slough penalty area, the Rebels stood firm time and time again, restricting the visitors to hopeful long-range efforts, with James Warrington very well protected in the Slough goal.
On the break, Slough almost snatched a second, as Smith played in Sonner, but his shot was saved by Paul Strudley.
Hungerford were frustrated time and time again, Slough doing a fine job of breaking up attacks, and when the ball was played in to the box, the prolific Mark Draycott was denied by important interceptions and clearances from Sean Fraser and captain for the day, Alex Brown.
With around 35 minutes played, Sean Sonner committed to a challenge on Hungerford’s Bradley Gray and appeared to catch the midfield player late. Referee Craig Green produced the red card for Sonner, a decision which divided opinion amongst those present.
Nonetheless, the decision put Slough at a clear disadvantage for the remainder of the game. The home side saw out the rest of the first half after absorbing a great deal of pressure, but in the second, Bateman’s side managed to find a good combination of defence and attack, and had some chances to kill the game off.
Hungerford went close with a cross-shot from Gray which evaded the front men in the box, and a minute later, Dan Burnell crashed a long-range shot against Strudley’s crossbar from 25 yards.
Nathan Bowden-Haase saw a header cleared off the line and Burnell dug another shot from distance, this time on his left foot, but this one was comfortably saved.
In response, Hungerford could only offer long-range efforts, with Gray firing one shot over and another inches past Warrington’s post. As the game opened up, Burnell dragged a shot wide after a mistake from Ian Herring, and Jon Boardman made a superb point-blank block from Smith.
Warrington was called into action to make an important low save from substitute Ryan Crockford’s free kick. But Strudley was also busier than many would have thought – awkwardly keeping out a shot from Ollie Burgess but getting to the loose ball in the scrum which followed.
As thoughts turned to closing out the game, the hard-working Burnell was replaced by the pacey Omar Vassell, but with two minutes remaining, Slough doubled their lead. Warrington made another reaction save to turn away a shot from Draycott, but Slough ventured forward and worked the ball around the Hungerford box. Stuart Swift picked the ball up and fired a shot which served and dipped just in front of Strudley, leaving him wrong footed and helpless, able only to watch the ball fly past him.
With 90 minutes played, Hungerford then pulled a goal back – Hopper firing a low shot across Warrington and into the far corner – but were unable to force a replay, Slough making it through to another home tie against Gosport Borough.
Hungerford Town Line up
Paul Strudley, Luke Brewer (Ryan Crockford), Diak John, Jon Boardman (c), Gary Horgan, Tom Fila, Luke Hopper, Ian Herring (Sean Wood), Ben Pugh, Mark Draycott, Bradley Gray. Subs not used: Garreth Brown, Scott Rees, Danny Williamson.