Published 20th February 2012
...times winners and STL Northern League rivals Whitley Bay 2-1 and put them into the quarter finals of the FA Carlsberg Vase on Saturday.
However, manager Peter Dixon wasn’t in the mood to celebrate knocking out the Bay, who hadn’t lost a Vase tie since the 2008 semi-finals, and have won at Wembley in each of the last three seasons.
The game was held up for half-an-hour while an ambulance was called to take Francis to hospital with a broken tibia and fibula, following a challenge by Whitley midfielder Lee-Paul Scroggins, who was red carded. Francis had a three hour operation on Saturday evening.
“The injury to Alex has taken the shine off the victory for me, and I’m embarrassed to be celebrating,” said Dixon. “Getting into the last eight has come at a huge price.
“When Alex was being lifted into the ambulance, he said to the players “Go out and win it for me,” and they certainly did. They kept their discipline well when they could have lost their heads.
“To me, the health of Alex is more important than getting through. It was a very emotional day.”
There were plenty of chances in the game, with West keeper Mark Bell pulling off a top drawer save from Paul Chow, and Mattie Moffat and Micky Rae going close at the other end.
A goalless 90 minutes in front of a 1,293 crowd looked certain, until Mattie Moffat headed in Martin Young’s corner from six yards out. Whitley levelled straight from the restart, when Paul Robinson turned in Robbie Dale’s low shot to apparently force extra time.
But deep into stoppage time, Moffat’s header was blocked, but Rae was there to head in from just a couple of yards to keep West’s Wembley hopes alive.
For Whitley, it was the end of a twenty-nine-game unbeaten run in the Vase, the best ever in a senior FA competition. Manager Ian Chandler said: “Maybe one or two players didn’t expect to lose, but we needed to get in front with ten-men to give us something to hang on to.
“I didn’t think that the tackle by Lee-Paul Scroggins on Alex Francis was malicious, and if it hadn’t been a break, then I would have expected a yellow.
“We were beaten by a last minute goal, but I’ve got no complaints, because we’ve done that to other clubs before. I thought that we deserved a draw after playing with ten-men for so long.”