The Non-League Football Paper


- By Richard Scott

PENALTY kings Newport Pagnell Town claimed their their SIXTH shootout success over the last two seasons to complete a sensationa­l return to Wembley for the FA Vase final.

The Swans lifted the trophy with a 3-0 victory over Littlehamp­ton Town last May and will be back under the arch again this season thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Martin Conway, who saved from Thomas Hampton and Peter Williams.

Both teams led at one stage in normal time – player-boss Richard Duffy putting Congleton in front before Newport hit back through Jake Watkinson.

Mo Ahmed then turned the tables for the holders, only for the Bears to restore parity again 12 minutes from the end through Ethan Hartshorn.

“I’m more relieved than I feel like celebratin­g,” said Newport Pagnell manager Gary Flinn. “It will sink in an hour or two’s time, but at the moment I’m relieved because the game was so tense and we’re under a bit of pressure at the end.

“The penalties weren’t crisp from either team, to be honest, but, my lads stood up, were counted and scored enough to get through.”

Congleton broke the deadlock on the half hour when a Williams corner found his manager unmarked at the back post and his header was strong enough to beat the body of players on the line.

Watkinson put a glorious chance wide of Dave Parton’s goal but it was a warning shot that the Congleton defence failed to take notice of, as just two minutes later Newport were level when Ahmed ran in behind Mackenzie Faulkner and squared to Watkinson who made no mistake this time.

Newport started the second have the brighter and were ahead of the hour mark when a ball was whipped into the area and Ahmed scrambled it home.

Hartshorn tried his luck from range for Congleton but could only find Conway, but on 74 minutes he brought the Bears level when he crashed a volley from distance past Conway, who was left rooted to the spot.

The experience­d Tom Pope almost won it for the Bears late on but just couldn’t steer Peter Williams’s cross home.

And that miss was punished as successful penalties from Watkinson, Albie Hall and last year’s final hero Ben Shepherd sent the Swans back to Wembley.

Upbeat Duffy said: “I’m super proud of what we have achieved, getting this far and, coming up against the best team in the competitio­n because they won it last year and they’re in the final again.”

STAR MAN: Ben Shepherd (Newport Pagnell) ATT: 1,200 ENTERTAINM­ENT: ★★★★★ REFEREE: Aaron Jackson

 ?? PICTURE: Alun Roberts ?? ON THE SPOT: Newport Pagnell’s Martin Conway saves in the shootout and Albie Hall celebrates with fan, inset
PICTURE: Alun Roberts ON THE SPOT: Newport Pagnell’s Martin Conway saves in the shootout and Albie Hall celebrates with fan, inset

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