By John Baron
It’s a bit of a cliche, but watching Farsley Celtic this season has been a rollercoaster of a ride. But for the fans who made the 418-mile round trip down to Hungerford Town, it’s a high point that will live long in the memory.
Around 100 vocal fans who made the long trip from West Leeds saw a thrilling game, with the visitors booking their first-ever appearance in the quarter finals of the FA Trophy after beating Hungerford 3-2.
Goals from Andy Butler, Bobby Johnson and new loan signing Harry Jessop secured the deserved win against their National League South hosts.
Hungerford were the better side in the first half, with Farsley keeper Max Dearnley making two top notch saves and the Farsley goal surviving a couple of guilt-edged chances which were headed wide.
Hungerford’s Jake Evans curled home a stunning free-kick in the ninth minute to give Hungerford an early lead.
But the Celts were level within nine minutes. Luke Parkin swung the ball towards defender Andy Butler at the far post, and he picked out the bottom corner with a superb half-volley.
Attacking down the slope, Farsley had more control of the game and the better of the second half.
The visitors went ahead just after the hour-mark after Kyle Bailey handled above his head in the box. Bobby Johnson sent the keeper there wrong way to give The Celts a lead which would only last three minutes.
David Bremang fired the hosts level with a fine finish on 64 minutes after finding space on the edge of the Farsley box.
The Celts continued to probe and just five minutes later were ahead again. Andy Butler superbly got on the end of Bobby Johnson’s free-kick, flicking it on for Harry Jessop, who superbly prodded home inside the six-yard box following hesitancy in the Hungerford defence. 3-2 to Farsley in a breathless game.
It was almost four for the visitors in the 81st minute, but Johnson’s effort was brilliantly saved by Ward in the Hungerford goal.
In the fifth minute of stoppage time Celts’ heart were in their mouths as a looping header hit the crossbar, but the visitors held on to spark celebration among their vocal supporters.
Football at this level is all about family and spirit, and the players’ celebrating with fans – who had again earlier called for chairman Paul Barthorpe to go – will live long in the memory.
Fans’ celebrations lasted on the supporters’ club coach and minibus through the four-hour motorway journey home.
Mention must also be made of Margaret Palmer and her family for kindly sponsoring the players’ overnight stay ahead of the FA Trophy tie which undoubtedly made a difference to the team’s performance. The warm welcome of the home fans and chatty chairman, as well as the well wishers after the game, were appreciated.
Farsley must now put aside their dream of a Wembley final and focus on their relegation battle in the National League North.
The club slipped to third from bottom following results yesterday but are just two points from safety with games in hand as they travel to high-flying Scarborough for a rearranged fixture on Tuesday.
As for a possible trip down Wembley way for an FA Trophy final for minnows Farsley Celtic… they surely couldn’t. Could they?
Hungerford Town: Ward, McGrory, Bremang, Evans, Smith, Ward, Bailey, Berry-Hargreaves, Tyler, Jones, Adjedi-Hersey.
Farsley Celtic: Dearnley, Turner, Butler, Allan, Scales, Butroid, Atkinson (C), Johnson, Ubaezuono, Jessop, Parkin.
Celts boss Russ Wilcox said reaching the quarter finals was a ‘massive achievement’ and a huge boost for the cash-strapped club, both on and off the pitch.
“We knew before the game we’d made history and I said to them, let’s take it to another level level, to the quarter finals,” he said. “We’re the lowest ranked team left in and it’s a massive achievement for the football club.”
Midfielder Bobby Johnson hailed the win, especially after Farsley lost their first-choice front three through sale, injury and suspension.
Frustrated Hungerford manager Danny Robinson said his side were naive at times and made too many mistakes.