MATCH REPORT: Bristol Manor Farm 2-2 Winchester City

Manor Farm joined their visitors in the play-offs as they came from behind twice to earn a share of the spoils.

Winchester had secured their play-off spot on Easter Monday but showed no sign of slowing down after they took the lead at The Creek in seven minutes. Craig Feeney allowed the freedom of the Farm area and had the simple task of heading past Ben John.

The goal did wake the hosts up after an understandably nervy opening. Steve Kingdon brought down a Jake Gosling corner and his effort was blocked back to the Gibraltan, whose own shot was deflected safely into the arms of Winchester keeper Ryan Pryce. 

Gosling’s deliveries were a constant threat, as they had been all season. The next was from a deep free-kick, which Josh Ford headed narrowly wide. 

The Farmers kept coming as Winchester struggled to keep the ball. Theo Llewellyn snapped into a challenge before finding Stamp, who in turn found Owen Howe over the top. The striker allowed the ball to bounce before cracking a half volley just over the bar. 

Even when Farm hit the target, Pryce was in a defiant mood. Stamp was once again involved as he found Kye Simpson, whose low effort was smartly saved. 

Farm’s equaliser came just before the break and via the route one method. Ben John caught his kick sweetly and Howe and Stamp’s battling ensured the loose ball dropped to Simpson, who thumped home at the second attempt. 

Farm would have the final chance of a breathless first half too. Another Gosling corner was pinpoint but Howe could only head over.

Winchester started the second half in much the same vein that they had started the first. Ollie Bailey found himself free down the right and cut the ball back to Tyrell Mitford, who curled it just off target. 

Just before the hour, Farm had a pair of chances to go in front. First Gosling’s trickery earned him a yard to cross for Simpson, who just failed to make a film connection at the back post. Minutes after, more good work by Stamp saw him find Howe over the top but the ball wouldn’t come down in time, allowing Joe Hayward time to get back and block the striker’s effort. 

Farm’s captain was next to try his luck. He combined brilliantly with the returning Jayden Neilsen but his effort went wide. 

Winchester still looked like a threat on the counter despite the host’s pressure. A long ball bounced kindly for Bailey who looked through on goal but defender Ford somehow recovered and forced the striker to lift the ball over.

If that was a warning by the visitors it wasn’t heeded. A well-worked free-kick set substitute, Ollie Balmer, away down the left and whilst his cross was headed onto the bar by Simba Mlambo, Bailey’s acrobatic effort did hit the net to silence the Creek and set up a tense final 15 minutes. 

Farm almost hit back immediately, Neilsen combined well with Bryant and the former’s drilled low cross was met by defender Hayward whose slide in somehow managed to avoid being put into his own net and drop to any of the waiting Farm attackers. 

With Totton winning away in Gloucestershire, Farm knew they had to score as the minutes ticked by. In the 87th minute came the defining moment of an incredible season. Mason Winter’s cross was flicked on by Simpson and Farm couldn’t have hoped for a better man for the ball to drop too. Owen Howe swivelled and fired his half volley past Pryce to send the record-breaking Farm home crowd into delirium and earn Manor Farm a spot in Tuesday night’s playoff semi-final at Frome Town.

STAR MAN, Owen Howe.