When news happens text pix and video to 80360. Start your message with BE then leave a space.
Mitchell's Verdict: Poole Town 2 Hungerford Town 0
POOLE’S fans from yesteryear could have been forgiven for thinking this day would never come.
Dark times were endured following Dolphins’ fall from grace, culminating in the Southern League’s worst post-war record when they careered rather than fell through the relegation trapdoor 18 seasons ago.
Along with their status, Poole had to contend with an exile from the world’s oldest and country’s most lucrative cup competition.
After dropping into the Hampshire League, even the most ardent of supporters would have wondered whether their beloved club would participate in the FA Cup again.
Hopes of repeating historic ties against Everton and Watford were seemingly gone for good.
The fightback, of course, needs no introduction. Four league titles in the past five seasons and a return to the promised land of the Southern Premier have placed Poole firmly back on the non-league map.
And while Dolphins came close to realising their first round dream before falling at the final hurdle against Hayes & Yeading three years ago, there was some poetic justice to their latest step towards a place in the competition proper which has eluded them for 30 years.
During that fateful season back in 1995, beleaguered Poole crashed out of the cup to an Isthmian Division Two outfit who would go on to finish second bottom of their lower league.
That team was Hungerford Town. They beat Poole 5-0.
Both clubs have come a long way since then, so much so that it could be argued the Berkshire outfit have been the biggest thorn in Tom Killick’s side as he has masterminded Poole’s renaissance.
Persistent promotion rivals Hungerford – one of only two teams to have won a league match at Tatnam since November 2011 – always had a knack of rattling Dolphins with their spiky, in-your-face style of football in Southern Division One South & West.
They may have been trumped in a play-off semi-final during that time, but Crusaders boss Bobby Wilkinson, buoyed by eight wins and seven clean sheets in nine matches, insisted Poole would be “more frightened of us than we are of them” ahead of this clash.
In the style accustomed to their past trips to Dorset, Wilkinson’s side attempted to implement their manager’s brash approach and upset the hosts’ rhythm from the outset.
But their plan soon went out of the window. Carl Preston pushed the ball down the left wing before cruising past Mark Hughes to centre for Jon Davies, who outmuscled his marker and finished at the far post.
In search of a nerve-settling second, Poole continued to probe with Dan Cann charging round like a man possessed, linking up well with Davies and Marvin Brooks to stretch the visitors to breaking point.
But captain Cann hadn’t read the warning signs and paid the ultimate price for his exuberance on the stroke of half-time when he picked up his second yellow card.
Fortune may have been in short supply for the first booking, with referee Mark Lawrence harshly brandishing his card following an innocuous tangle, but Cann’s decision to test his luck with a needless challenge on Hungerford skipper Matt Day 10 minutes later proved ill-advised at best.
Lawrence was left with little option after consulting his assistant, who was perfectly placed for a vehement reminder of what he saw from Hungerford’s bench.
Game plan back on track? Not on your nelly.
The sense of injustice that coursed through the bulk of Tatnam’s crowd transmitted to the players straight after the restart, especially after Somerset-based Lawrence had only booked visiting full-back Hughes for clattering Brooks with an overzealous challenge from behind.
Poole’s 10 were outplaying and outsmarting their opponents who couldn’t string together a meaningful move.
Will Spetch nearly thumped home the goal his towering display deserved, but was thwarted by Luke Brewer’s goal-line clearance, while Nick Hutchings was on red alert to parry Day’s blistering free-kick before dealing with a brief aerial bombardment with unflinching composure.
And when Hungerford’s Alan O’Brien was guilty of a petulant swipe on Sam Clarke, the tireless Brooks was right on cue to take full advantage, steering Steve Devlin’s deep free-kick inside the far post to seal the deal.
Stefan Brown’s ability to clear Hutchings’s crossbar in the dying stages typified the visitors’ day, while Poole substitute Ekow Elliott pelted the post at the other end, but his spurned opportunity proved academic.
Professionalism, purpose and poise had seen Poole accomplish their mission in a very apt way, despite being presented with a tough-as-old-boots test.
That 30-year duck is lying in wait and, if it is broken, this supercharged display is sure to live long in the memory.
Star man - Marvin Brooks
Pivotal in Poole’s fluid movement with Dan Cann and Jon Davies early on, flexible midfielder Brooks didn’t just do a job up front following his captain’s dismissal, he single-handedly terrorised Hungerford’s backline.
His trademark goal continued his record of scoring in every round and was no less than he deserved from a special performance that just drew the plaudits away from the excellent Will Spetch on a day that saw every Dolphins player prove their worth.
Dolphins: Hutchings 8.5, Clarke 8, Spetch 9, Cummings 8.5, Whisken 8, Pettefer 8, Brooks 9* (Byerley, 88), Devlin 8.5, Davies 8 (Elliott, 86), Preston 8 (Charles, 90), Cann 6.
Unused subs: Gillespie, Richardson, Dickson, Thomas (g/k).
Booked: Cann, Preston.
Sent off: Cann.
Hungerford: Strudley, Hughes, Stanley, Boardman, Day, Rees (Horgan, 60), Gray (Stow, h-t), Brewer, Goodger (Grace-Parsons, 60), Brown, O’Brien.
Unused subs: Draycott, Clark, Herring, Hopkins.
Booked: Stanley, Hughes.
Referee: Mark Lawrence (Bridgwater).
Comments are closed on this article.