Millbrook 1-2 Willand

Sep 8, 2021

It is a measure of how far Milbrook have come that they made a Southern League side fight tooth and nail for victory at Jenkins Park.

The Brook, enjoying their first season in the Western League premier division, played their part in an enthralling FA Cup replay, the outcome of which was up in the air until the final whistle.

Willand were never behind across the two matches but such is Millbrook’s never say die reputation that the Devon side were not able to relax at any stage.

Rovers seemed to be well on their way to victory by the hour mark with two goals in six minutes from Josh Searle and a Jason Richards own goal.

But Richards struck at the other end a minute from normal time, heading into the net after a Tom Payne rocket free kick was somehow kept out by keeper George Burton, to set up a manic six minutes of stoppage time.

Millbrook carved out one good chance in time added on with Laurence Murray sending a 20 yard volley wide but they fought to the final whistle.

Willand, who had pulverised Millbrook in the first half of the first tie at Silver Street, even though they led only 1-0 at the break, started strongly but Saturday’s danger man Alfie Moulden was not given the space he was afforded then.

In fact the first half felt very much like both defences cancelling each other out and there were few chances.

Jake Foster had Millbrook’s best opportunity of the half in the 32nd minute as he escaped Willand’s offside trap but his fierce low shot was well kept out by the outstanding Burton.

Willand responded four minutes later with a free kick whipped in from the right which left Jack Rice unmarked on the far post – a carbon copy of one of Willand’s goals on Saturday – but this time Rice was just unable to reach the ball.

Millbrook then produced a dangerous free kick of their own as the ball floated over keeper Burton, but the ball was hacked off the line before Rikki Shepherd could pounce.

Willand left it five minutes into the second half before making a tactical change as they sent on two substitutes and switched to a 4-4-2 formation from 4-5-1.

And it worked almost immediately as Searle curled a left foot shot past Millbrook keeper Sam Borthwick.

Willand were now in the ascendancy and when a ball from the left was rifled into the penalty area and towards Rice in the middle, Richards stretched to try to clear at the near post only to see the ball end up in his own net.

It seemed like a mountain to climb for Millbrook but they almost reduced the arrears five minutes later when Shepherd fired a shot against the post with substitute Ryan Knight’s follow-up shot cleared off the line.

In an increasingly open game, Willand kept pressing for a killer third goal but they had to remain careful at the back as the home side kept believing.

Richards’ late strike gave them hope of another spectacular comeback – but on this occasion it was not to be.

The way the Millbrook players were cheered off the pitch at the end illustrated how close they had come.