Chris Swailes became the oldest player to score at the new Wembley as Morpeth Town came from behind to claim a 4-1 victory over Hereford in a thrilling FA Vase final.
The 45-year-old – who has had to overcome heart surgery in his remarkable career – ironically chested in the Morpeth equaliser, after Rob Purdie had fired Hereford ahead after just 75 seconds, on his way to earning the man-of-the-match award.
Luke Carr, Sean Taylor and substitute Shaun Bell added more goals for the jubilant Highwaymen in a battle between two teams in the ninth tier of English football, Hereford from the Midland League and Morpeth from the Northern League.
Hereford 1-4 Morpeth Town
The FA Vase
Wembley Stadium connected by EE
Sunday 21 May 2016
Morpeth win £25,000 from The FA prize fund
It was a great exhibition of football to open up the Football Association’s Non-League Finals Day with the FA Trophy between Grimsby and Halifax to follow.
Hereford had already won two cups and a league title this season – and brought more than 19,000 fans with them to Wembley.
But this was Morpeth’s day after a scintillating second-half display.
Purdie’s second-minute belter set the tone for a frenetic first half as Morpeth were forced to chase the game from the off.
The midfielder – who made more than 100 Football League appearances for Hereford – strode through midfield and blasted past startled Morpeth keeper Karl Dryden from 20 yards.
Sirdic Grant should have doubled the lead a couple of minutes later but Dryden this time was equal to it, and minutes later Grant cracked the Highwaymen’s bar with an 18-yard screamer.
And in the 23rd minute the highly effective Mike Symons set up Pablo Haysham for a tap-in, but somehow he contrived to miss, before Symons himself was slow to react when the ball pin-balled around the goal area.
Morpeth had chances too, with Hereford stopper Martin Horsell tipping over Taylor’s fierce drive and Ben Sayer firing high and wide.
But then machine operator Swailes, who has now won the FA Vase on three occasions, made the headlines as he bundled the ball home off his chest in the 34th minute after Horsell had missed a high cross from the left.
Morpeth top-scorer Michael Chilton then made a mess of another gilt-edged chance just yards out in the 39th minute, but two minutes after the restart Morpeth were ahead.
Carr, a club manager, finished with aplomb after an exquisite move featuring Keith Graydon, Sayer, and Taylor that completely bamboozled the Bulls’ defence.
Symons tested Dryden as Hereford sought a quick equaliser, but it was groundsman Taylor who put Morpeth further ahead in the 59th minute as they dug deep for victory.
Graydon swung in a penetrating through ball that eventually found its way for the striker to sidefoot triumphantly past Horsell.
Taylor threatened again before being replaced by Damien Mullen but Bell wrapped things up with a decent run and scuffed shot that put gloss on the victory.
Hereford FC (4-4-2): Martin Horsell; Jimmy Oates, Ryan Green, Jamie Willets, Joel Edwards; Sirdic Grant, Aaron Birch, Rob Purdie, Joe Tomelty; Pablo Haysham, Mike Symons.
Substitutions: Mustapha Bunda (for Tomelty 55), John Mills (for Willets 70)
Subs not used: Nathan Summers, Dylan Bonella, Ros Stanley.
Goal: Purdie 2
Morpeth Town (4-4-2): Karl Dryden: Stephen Forster, Chris Swailes, Michael Hall, James Novak; Luke Carr, Keith Graydon, Jordan Fry, Ben Sayer; Sean Taylor, Michael Chilton.
Substititions: Steven Anderson (for Chilton 67), Damien Mullen (for Taylor 76), Shaun Bell (for Carr 88)
Sub not used: Dale Pearson, Niall Harrison
Goals: Swailes 34, Carr 47, Taylor 59, Bell 92
Referee: Stuart Attwell