05:00PM, Thursday 02 December 2021
Slough Town played two thirds of Saturday's FA Trophy tie with Havant & Waterlooville with an extra man, after Paul Rooney was sent off in the 28th minute conceding the penalty from which Aaron Kuhl scored the game's only goal.
But despite this advantage, the tie was anything but comfortable for joint managers Jon Underwood and Neil Baker, who had never before reached the third round of the competition as managers.
The home side should have made life a little easier for themselves in the second half, but chances were spurned, and they found themselves under the cosh as the 10-men pressed for a leveller in the final minutes.
A resilient defensive display, typified by Jonathan North's commanding display in goal, kept them at bay and saw Slough advance to the third round, and a tie at home with Eastbourne Borough.
Underwood said afterwards it was a workmanlike display, but it was good enough to 'get the job done' on a bitterly cold afternoon.
He and Baker are now keen for the Rebels to follow the example of Concord Rangers and Hornchurch in recent seasons by going on an extended run in the competition. What's more, Underwood feels they owe it to the club having bowed out of the FA Cup in such meek fashion to Whitehawk.
“We just said in there, the easy thing is to think that when you're 1-0 up with the extra man you're going to find the second half comfortable, and we never were,” said Underwood.
“They made a fight of it, and they've got goals in their side, but what was pleasing is we restricted them to very little in the second half. It wasn’t a pretty game at all, the wind never helps a football match at all. First half I think it was quite flat, there wasn’t a huge crowd here so there was lots of things that didn’t help. We were obviously relieved to get through but, apart from a few balls in the box late on, I thought we restricted them to very little.
“We controlled the second half and looked a danger as well. I wasn't a classic performance, but it was just what we needed to get through.”
Throughout the second half the Rebels were in control but never comfortable. They had chances to kill off the game through Alfonso Tenconi and Ben Harris but didn't take them and Havant had enough quality in their ranks to remain a threat, despite being a man down. Havant pressed in the latter stages but in truth created little of note other than a couple of snap shots from the edge of the area which flew wide. Any balls into the box were headed clear by Mark Nisbet and Lee Togwell, while North claimed several crosses under enormous pressure.
“We could have made it easier for ourselves,” said Underwood.
“Ben (Harris) had a good chance early in the second half and Alfonso (Tenconi) also broke away but just had a heavy touch which allowed the keeper to save.
“But we’ve just beaten Havant twice in a row and they’re one of the top sides in the league so we’re not going to pick fault.
“There's always room for improvement, but it's important that we bounced back after last week's defeat. Funnily enough it’s the further Bakes and I have been in this competition, ever. I don’t know why. We know it wasn’t a great game, but it was job done.
“We're delighted with Jonathan North, who came and took difficult crosses all game and kicked well into the wind.
He added: “I think it was a straightforward decision for the ref. Aaron Kuhl chased it down and got the wrong side of the defender, and he pulled him back.
“The ref allowed play to continue to see if he could score but then realised the pullback had taken his chance away of scoring.
“It was the only decision from where we were standing.”