Yellamen in dreamland after beating Newport Pagnell Town
Kai Walters wrote his name into Ascot United folklore after his 80th-minute header won the Isuzu FA Vase against holders Newport Pagnell Town on Sunday. Substitute Walters, in his last game for The Yellamen, got just enough on Sean McCormack’s right wing cross to score the only goal and round off a double winning season for Jamie Tompkins’ side.
Having already won the Combined Counties League Premier Division North, a Wembley outing was the icing on the cake for The Racecourse outfit, although by the end of the afternoon they’d added the proverbial cherries, candles and everything else on top.
The game itself was a close affair – Ascot settled well in the early stages but Newport came into the game and bossed possession for long periods – although Jordan Ajanlekoko’s glancing header came back off the angle of post and crossbar as The Yellamen threatened first.
Newport had their moments – Mo Ahmed also struck a post with a cross-shot midway through the half – but it remained goalless at the break.
Brothers in arms
The match was a special affair for brothers Alfie and Harry Grant, the latter an unused substitute in Thatcham Town’s FA Vase win in 2018, but this time around he got the chance to make his mark alongside his sibling on football’s biggest stage. Alfie, a towering presence in defence, helped ensure The Swans’ prolific strike partners Albie Hall and Jake Watkinson could find no way through, whereas Harry would provide the telling pass that ultimately led to his side’s winner.
Marcus makes his mark
Impact substitute Marcus Mealing’s 70th minute introduction for Ascot would galvanise an already-mounting threat, and just four minutes after his introduction his thumping header from Sean McCormack’s cross clattered back off the crossbar. However, his presence in the box ten minutes from time would ultimately send Ascot and their travelling supporters into dreamland.
Kai hits the high before going down under
Walters, only on a substitute after an early injury to Rob Gerrard, capped an energetic display with a strike that only a romantic could script, signing off in style before his move to Australia. Top scorer Brendan Matthew wriggled his way through a challenge, played in Harry Grant, and after his cross had evaded Mealing it was picked up by McCormack on the right wing – and he swung in the telling delivery for Walters to glance past Martin Conway ten minutes from time.
Knowing they might only score one goal against their resilient opponents, Ascot knew they had to keep it tight at the back. And, behind the rearguard of Alfie Grant, Dan Bailey, George Lock, Harry Tucker and Gerrard, lay Rhys Forster. Composed, confident and impeccable on the day – the young ‘keeper thwarted everything that Newport could throw at him – keeping a clean sheet to carry the mantle for long-term injury victim Jamie Ashdown.
Yellawall make their presence felt
Outnumbered by over 6000 Newport fans, the traveling army of yellow-and-blue rose to the occasion as Ascot’s twelfth man. 4300 of them – roughly one-third of the town’s population – would roar them team forwards and erupted in delirium when referee Anthony Backhouse blew his whistle at the end of five minutes of stoppage time.
Alongside the departing Walters, imperious defender Chris Ellis announced his retirement, but they and their squad mates’ names will be forever etched in Ascot folklore after giving their adoring supporters a gift that is unlikely to ever be replicated at Ascot United.
Manager Tompkins proudly hugged two trophies in the post-match party, and now he has led his heroes to glory at Wembley he can look forward to taking them beyond when their Isthmian League campaign starts in August.
But in the present moment it is simply yellow and blue.
Ascot United: Forster, Lock (Ellis), Gerrard (Walters), A. Grant, Bailey, Tucker, McCormack, H. Grant, Matthew, McCormack, Welch (Mealing). Subs unused: Negus, Bouwers, Balogun, August