Football: Shilton's Orient depressed
FA Cup second round: Stevenage make statement of status while Woking take new scalp
Stevenage Borough 2
Browne 1, Catlin 22
You have to feel sorry for Peter Shilton. Having moved from West Ham to Leyton Orient in order to complete his 1,000 League appearances (his is at present on 998), he had to suffer the indignity of an FA Cup second-round exit at the hands of Stevenage Borough, a defeat made worse by conceding a goal after just 29 seconds without getting so much as a touch of the ball.
The early strike plainly fuelled the Vauxhall Conference champions with a belief that they could win this tie, and prove to both the League authorities and the High Court that the decision to exclude them from the Third Division because of their stadium was an injustice.
Certainly Stevenage's football for most of this tie belied their part- time status - they looked as fit and were palpably more organised than their League opponents, and though they had to endure a nervous eternity of injury time they hung on cleverly to seal their win and send their 2,500 travelling fans home delirious.
Shilton, who didn't get a sniff of Stevenage's second goal either, was very lucky not to complete his day with the humiliation of a sending off. With minutes to go to half-time, Shilton charged out of his area and shouldered Barry Hayles to the ground after one of his defence's frequent lapses had set this prolific scorer free.
As the Boro fans bellowed for Shilton's dismissal, the referee, Mick Fletcher, took his time to assess the situation and eventually showed a yellow card to the 47-year-old goalkeeper, who patted the ref's back with relief.
"I felt that Shilton should have gone off," said the Stevenage manager, Paul Fairclough. "But I suppose the ref must have taken account of who he was." Fairclough preferred to dwell on what he called his "team's fantastic performance. My only regret is that we didn't get a third goal to show that we fully deserved the win."
There was little doubt of that, especially after the non-league side had produced such an explosive start. Their goalkeeper, Des Gallagher, a scaffolder by trade, launched a high kick into the Orient half and when the defender Andy Arnott's header went backwards instead of forwards, the ex-Fulham striker Corey Browne pounced to blast a half volley past Shilton into the bottom corner.
Shilton then watched as his team tried to claw their way back into the game. By the ninth minute, they had, courtesy of Justin Channing's far- post header from Peter Garland's cross.
But the threat from Stevenage only revived as they produced quick passing and plenty of movement to pin Orient back. It was no surprise when they regained the lead after 22 minutes when their impressive midfielder Neil Catlin profited from another defensive mistake and calmly placed his left- foot shot past the helpless Shilton. The upset was now on.
Orient certainly came back strongly in the second half and Gallagher produced several defiant deflections to thwart both Arnott and Channing, who should both have scored.
But Stevenage, who have won four championships in their meteoric rise over the last six seasons, held on to secure a third- round place for the first time in their history.
"We want to win the Conference and get up into the League above all else," said Fairclough, who was once on Liverpool's books. "So what I'd like from the draw is a big fish and we can earn a bit of money and then get on with winning our League, because obviously we aren't going to win the Cup."
There are now, apparently, no problems with Stevenage's revamped stadium and if they can hang on to such stars as top scorer Hayles and Nigerian Under-21 defender Efetober Sodje, then the future looks bright for them.
At the other end of the age scale, Shilton is expected to complete his 1,000th League game at home to Brighton on Sunday 22 December. But he said with a smile as he left: "There's always next year in the FA Cup."
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