Heroic Bennett heads Sudbury through

SOCCER: Sudbury 2 Great Wakering Rovers 1 (after extra-time). Sudbury were left battered and bruised, but grateful to be in today's FA Carlsberg Vase quarter-final draw after a performance full of character at the Kingsmarsh Stadium, on Saturday.

Sudbury 2 Great Wakering Rovers 1 (after extra-time)

Sudbury were left battered and bruised, but grateful to be in today's FA Carlsberg Vase quarter-final draw after a performance full of character at the Kingsmarsh Stadium, on Saturday.

Two goals from Gary Bennett settled their fifth round tie against Ryman League side Great Wakering Rovers, from South Essex, either side of a fortunate penalty for the visitors.

Rovers seemed to have set out their stall for a replay on Tuesday but their hearts were broken by the winner after 106 minutes.

Sudbury manager Keith Martin was relieved to be through to the last eight. He said: "I don't mind who we get but I hope we will be at home, on our own pitch."

Of the game itself he said: "We have played better than that. At the end of the day it is a good result, it came right for us. We dug in. It was a real battle.

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"Our winning goal was something we had worked on in training this week. Chris Tracey got the flick on from Lee Norfolk's corner and Gary Bennett ghosted in to score. It was nice to see it."

The sponsors picked Terry Rayner, the unlucky man to be penalised for the penalty, as their man of the match but there were plenty of candidates, Chris Howlett and Gary Bennett among them. Martin agreed: "Bennett and Howlett were outstanding. It was Howlett's best game for ages. Our strength and stamina showed at the end."

Bennett's striking partner, Sam Banya, who was well-marshalled by the Rovers defence, said: "Gary did the business and got two good goals. This win was about our character, and the great team spirit we have got."

Howlett, the former Diss player, is at the furthest stage he has ever been in the Vase in 12 years of trying. He said: "At times, you can't play your prettiest football to get a result. Our fitness told. We work hard every Tuesday and Thursday and we can go the extra mile."

Sudbury took the lead after 23 minutes. There seemed no danger when Bennett picked up the ball on the left until he cut into the box, across the face of the defence, and then he rifled a shot into the far corner.

The home team threatened to run away with the game in the next 10 minutes with Michael Cheetham and Robbie Devereux seeing shots saved, and a Rayner effort being kicked off the line.

The visitors equalised in controversial fashion after 39 minutes, Gary Howard blasting home a penalty after handball had been given against Rayner.

A cross had deceived keeper Ben Nower and, when Neville Hickton smacked in a shot, the assistant referee flagged that Rayner had handled.

Manager Martin said: "I didn't think it was a penalty. I can't see how the referee can see it, and the players said it hit Terry on the chest. He did go to block the shot but he couldn't have got out of the way anyway."

Despite this blow, Sudbury almost regained the lead straightaway when Bennett shot just wide from eight yards after a quick free-kick.

The second half was all Sudbury. On the hour, Cheetham shot too high from a good position, and soon afterwards Bennett saw a firm shot blocked and then fired the rebound over the bar.

Keeper Dave Hudson had to make a smart save down low from Bennett after 70 minutes when Banya's flicked header put him in the clear.

Rovers' best chance fell to Hampshire with less than 10 minutes to go. A long ball evaded the defence but he completely missed the target from 12 yards.

That set up 30 minutes of extra time, and most of the 701 record crowd were celebrating when Bennett arrived unmarked to head into the net after 106 minutes.

Twice he came close to completing his hat-trick, but in the end his two goals proved enough to take Sudbury through to the last eight.

Sudbury: Nower, Rayner, Tanner, Tracey, Howlett, Devereux, Cheetham, Gardiner, Bennett, Banya, Betson: Subs used: Claydon, Owen, Norfolk.

Great Wakering rovers: Hudson, Heffer, Hickton, Munro, Howard, Scopes, Hampshire, Twidell. Sibanda, Trenkel, Dorrell. Subs used: Firth, Flack, Main.

Referee: M Maynard, Hertford.

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