HEARTBREAK doesn’t quite cut the emotion of every single Worcester City player, fan and member of staff after they were eliminated in the cruellest fashion from the FA Cup by Scunthorpe United.
With the game finishing 1-1, a mammoth 32-kick penalty shootout, the longest in the competition’s history, followed 120 minutes of fight, flair and the ability to more than match a side 62 league places above them.
Wayne Thomas missed the crucial spot-kick, with Miguel Llera tucking in the winner to make it 14-13, after a record 27 penalties were converted.
Nathan Vaughan saved two crucial efforts to keep City in the shoot-out but it wasn’t to be as the Iron came out on top in the second round replay.
It was harsh on the Blue and Whites, who pegged Scunthorpe back midway through the second half thanks to a cool Sean Geddes finish, that after Ellis Deeney had inadvertently put the ball into his own net on the stroke of half-time.
Manager Carl Heeley said: “The thing we wanted to do in this cup run was have no regrets and perform to the best of our ability and give a good account of ourselves and we have done that and more.
“It feels like a cruel game but I am actually ecstatic and proud of all the players and all the staff for what they have done in this cup run.
“We have to now use it as a springboard for our league campaign and FA Trophy because this football club deserves to be plying its trade at a higher level.
“To do that we have to get out the division and we need the supports to keep coming more often and if we do that there’s a bright future for the club.”
City started with passion, desire and some free-flowing football, but the visitors created the first chance when Tyler Weir cleared Neal Bishop’s header off the line and hacked away Paddy Madden’s follow-up.
Heeley said before the game he wanted a better first-half showing than that at Glanford Park and he got exactly that as Mike Symons hooked an effort which was well-blocked before the big striker flicked on to Jordan Murphy who drilled his strike just over the top.
Vaughan, who had to take the evening off work to play, was at his commanding best after 20 minutes when he denied Lyle Taylor from the edge of the box before he somehow kept the same man out with his feet just moments later.
The majority of the 4,339-strong crowd were on their feet after 24 minutes when a lung-bursting run from George Williams saw the defender cut the ball back to Daniel Nti, but Worcester’s joint-top scorer rippled the wrong side of the net and saw it go out for a goal-kick.
On-loan winger Murphy had been causing Alex Davey all sorts of problems since the first whistle and after half an hour he danced his way through a static Iron defence to set up Symons once more, but with his back to goal the shot flew high and wide.
The sucker-punch for Heeley’s men came as the second of just one minute added on rolled in when Gary McSheffrey’s corner was met by Madden. The striker’s header hit Deeney, hit Vaughan, hit the bar and made its way over the line.
Murphy was the man again to pull the City strings at the start of the second period when his counter attack resulted in a stringing drive which Sam Slocombe beat away to safety.
The visiting keeper was more convincing after 56 minutes when the on-loan winger once more left Davey for dead and attempted to curl a cross-come-shot which Slocombe easily held on to.
Aggborough’s roof was almost lifted off as the clock struck 69 minutes, and it was Geddes once more who sent the home crowd into raptures. He received the ball from Nti and tip-toed his way into the Scunthorpe box and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner to spark scenes of pure jubilation.
Livewire Murphy then forced the best out of Slocombe to keep the scores level as his 25-yard thunderbolt was heading for the top corner, United’s keeper acrobatically tipped it round the post.
To a man the Conference North side were proving more than a match for their Football League counterparts. Nti twice came the closest to winning the match in normal time, his acrobatics were denied well by Slocombe before fizzing an effort just over after 85 minutes.
If anyone thought an extra 30 minutes would slow the pace down, they were wrong. Extra time started at a canter with Madden being denied by Vaughan before Williams cut in from the right and shot wide.
The Iron ended the first period of extra time on the front foot with Hakeeb Adelakun firing wide before fellow substitute Matt Sparrow cushioned a volley past Vaughan’s post.
Both sides gave their all in a frantic final 15 minutes but tiredness crept in and it was the ‘dreaded’ penalty shoot-out that greeted the players after 120 minutes of real cup quality.
However it wasn’t to be for City as their unforgettable run in arguably the world’s biggest cup competition came to a painstaking end.