Non League Daily

Worthians should be proud no matter what the result

It was the biggest day in Highworth Town’s 122-year history and the Wiltshire club should be bursting with pride at their performance on and off the field writes NLD blogger Ken Gaunt

No matter the Hellenic League side lost their home leg 1-0 to North Shields in the FA Vase semi-final, this was about more than just a game of football, important as it was.

It was the about local community embracing a astonishing success story, one that could yet lead to a trip to Wembley Stadium, no less.

Highworth started their improbable journey at home against Hartley Wintney in front of 55 fans. On Saturday a record-busting 1200 were shoe-horned into the Elms .

Chairman Rohan Haines said: “I have seen people today I have not seen for 20 years. This is a great competition for a club like ours. If we could get an extra 20 or 30 on the gate, it would help massively.”

North Shields are on a different level when it comes to a fan base with an average gate approaching a remarkable 400.

More than half of those loyal fans hit the road, undaunted by a 550-mile round trip from the banks of the Tyne with the first coach leaving the Daren Persson Stadium at first light.

It was always going to be a long day but it got even longer after the second half was delayed by over 30 minutes.

A visiting supporter was taken to hospital after cracking his head on a step and about the same time there was a bit of a dust-up in the clubhouse that was quickly dealt with.

However any fatigue felt by the travelling army evaporated in the 70th minute when Dean Holmes scored the winner with a tap-in.

It came after a spell of intense pressure from Highworth following an indifferent first half in which there was a lot of graft but not much craft on a sloping, rutted pitch .

Haines said: “We were too nervous early on. But in the second half we were the better side and had two efforts cleared off the line.

“We have been to Windsor, Bradford, Tadcaster and Blackfield & Langley and won. They are good sides. We just wanted to be in with a chance in the second leg and that is how it has worked out.”

Robins manager Graham Fenton, a League Cup winner with Aston Villa, cut a frustrated figure in the dug-out as his side, tipped as favourites for the Vase, struggled to impose themselves.

Managerial counterpart John Fisher, a builder by trade and a self-confessed lover of a few pints on a Friday night, has no such pedigree as a player.

However they should be toasting him and telling tall tales in the pubs in and around Swindon for months to come, no matter what unfolds in the second leg on Saturday.

Haines added: “This run has been fantastic from a financial point of view. It has set us up for the next three to four years. But we are looking further afield than that as we have a successful youth development set-up with 28 junior sides.”

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