Honours Go To Cambridge In Battle Of The Conference

As has this grand old trophy that rather revels in its cult figures. So, rather appropriately, the hero of this tie for the fourth-placed side was Leo Fortune-West. Once dubbed Ronseal because he does exactly what it says on the tin, the veteran striker scored with his first touch of the ball to give Cambridge United a well deserved place in the second-round draw.

You have got to love football for its wonderful twists of fate. Back in 1992, Aldershot became the first side since Accrington Stanley 30 years previous to go out of business during a season. In the same year, Cambridge United finished fifth in the old Second Division and, in the play-offs, just missed out on being a founder member of the Premier League.

Fifteen years on, and one administration later, it is a long way since those heady days when United were growing accustomed to reaching the latter stages of the FA Cup and could sell players such as Trevor Benjamin for £1.5million.

Their steady decline has mirrored the impressive reincarnation of Aldershot Town and their rapid ascension from the Ryman Isthmian League Division Three to Conference perennials. Indeed, in their first Conference season they reached the play-off final only to be outdone on penalties by Shrewsbury, who were managed then by Jimmy Quinn.

As if to prove what a small world football is, Quinn is now manager of Cambridge. A journeyman pro, Quinn is the football equivalent of Michael Palin. But he has found a more permanent home in the Fens having just signed a contract extension until 2010, reward for a successful season so far after an indifferent one last year when Cambridge avoided relegation on the last day of the season.

Emboldened by a victory at league favourites Torquay last week, Cambridge went straight at their obsequious visitors. Town keeper Nikki Bull twice came to Aldershot's rescue, first tipping over from Rob Wolleaston and then smothering a sharp Lee Boylan volley.

Then they were unlucky not take the lead in a five-minute spell midway through the half when Darryl Knights hit the bar, Boylan flashed a header past a post and Michael Morrison drilled a vicious 35-yard drive that Bull did well to tip over.

But United were made to pay when Town scored with their first meaningful effort. A long ball down the left was flicked on by Joel Grant to send Johnny Dixon clear and slide the ball calmly under keeper Danny Potter.

Not that Aldershot used this as a launch pad for victory as Cambridge continued to do all the running. Six minutes into the second half and a stinging 25-yard drive from Stephen Reed saw Bull called into action once more.

But his goal could only lead a charmed life for so long and in the 63rd minute the hosts got their deserved equaliser. A mistake by Anthony Straker allowed Knights to pitch a deep cross to an unmarked Boylan at the back post. The favoured haunt of his manager while a player, the smallest man on the pitch picked his spot with ease.

Sadly for the superb Bull he was to make the crucial mistake five minutes from time, as he came for a free kick but was out-jumped by Fortune-West.

Reporter: Philip Dorward
Source: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/