MILES QUICK’s 89th minute strike secured Wellington’s place in the FA Vase second round for the first time in four years against a Millbrook side missing key players.
Quick took advantage of a deflection off a defender which left him unmarked inside the penalty area and he coolly slid his shot past goalkeeper Chris Wearing.
The tie had been heading for a penalty shootout, which might have suited Millbrook given Wearing’s excellent performance, but Quick’s goal ended those thoughts.
The home side, missing skipper and talisman Tom Payne (suspended), central defender Dave Youldon (unavailable) and striker Jake Foster (injured), lacked a touch of quality.
They took the lead midway through the first half when Laurence Murray’s corner from the left was scrambled over the line by John Styring, making his first start of the season after sustaining an injury in pre-season.
The 34-year-old, an old school centre half, dominated in the air and cleared his lines when necessary and his contribution helped Millbrook go in at half-time with their lead intact.
Wellington thought, with some justification, that they had dominated the opening 45 minutes and but for some heroics from Wearing they would have gone into the break with a goal or two.
Mason Raymond’s 16th minute effort looked to be floating into the corner of the net before the keeper threw himself to his right to parry it away, and six minutes from half-time Sam Towler thought he had scored only to see Wearing get fingertips to the ball to divert it over the bar.
But the visitors, whose style was pleasing on the eye, equalised through the excellent Josh Baker seven minutes into the second half and were further boosted a minute later when Millbrook had Sam Morcom sin-binned.
It was the second sin bin for the home side – defender Jason Richards had been ordered off in the 33rd minute – and it meant Millbrook had to play almost a quarter of the game one player down.
That proved disruptive and at the same time it gave Wellington the impetus to take a hold on the game, although Millbrook still had chances, with a Rikki Shepherd chip cleared off the line and Josh Toulson’s shot kept out superbly by goalkeeper Shay Allen.
Toulson also set up substitute Dan Chapman inside the penalty area, but his weak shot was easily gathered.
And as the tie moved into the seventh minute of stoppage time, the ball flew across the Wellington six yard box but there was no Millbrook player there to touch in.
Millbrook manager Mackenzie Brown said: “Wellington probably did just edge us over the course of the 90 minutes.
“They were up there with the best footballing teams we have played this season but there’s no doubt they were assisted by a baffling refereeing display.
“It felt like the shoe was on the other foot for us, as we have often been the team this season to dominate possession with the other team holding onto a lead and making the game scrappy, and that was possibly the case with us.
“Of course we were gutted to concede so so late, we finished the game strongly after Josh went up front for the last 20 minutes or so and had 11 men on the pitch.
“It looked like penalties were on the cards, but one unfortunate deflection into the path of their striker won them the game and that’s a little bit how our luck is going at the minute.”
On the two sin bins his team suffered, Brown said: “It was hard for us, we had to negotiate our way through two separate periods with 10 men, due to the referee’s inability to manage a game of football.
“Since the sin bin rule came into the game my team have had three sin-bins, including one in the very first game when Youlds (Dave Youldon) ‘kicked the ball away’ after a penalty. Refs couldn’t wait to use it.
“The discipline of my team, as far as dissent goes, is very good. My players know in that changing room that I don’t put up with it and generally favour the referee because if I was a ref I wouldn’t stand for any kind of abuse and it’s not something I like seeing.
“Yet on Saturday we had two players sin binned in a game where I watched 22 players compete with no abuse, no swearing and in fact they barely talked to the referee let alone show any form of dissent.
“The best officials manage players and games, communicate, answer questions, explain decisions, a bit like the linesman in front of me on Saturday, but Sean’s approach left the players bemused and destroyed the game from our point of view.
“I’m not sure if it’s because he knows our players, but this isn’t new and it cost us and as much as I’d like to criticise Jason and Sam for putting themselves in that situation, all they’ve done is ask a question which I think they’re entitled to do, and they’ve had a yellow card flashed in their face and shown off the pitch.
“If that’s his approach then come into the changing room before the game, say you’re ‘no-nonsense’ and you’re not willing to communicate to players then we know.
“But sin bins are huge decisions, it’s not like getting a free kick call wrong, they alter the pattern of the game significantly and it had a huge bearing on the game and I just found it a very strange way of dealing with players.”