CARDIFF CITY 2
WEYMOUTH manager Stuart Morgan could hardly believe it as he jumped for joy and cheered wildly at 4.40 p.m. on Satuday.
The young Welshman from Swansea and his team of part-timers had achieved a dream 3-2 victory over Third Division Cardiff City in his national side’s vast Ninian Park stadium in the second round of the F.A. Cup.
He had watched with pride as Weymouth had again come from the dead, after being 2-0 down at half-time and apparently staring defeat in the face, to surprise the Third Division title contenders with three shock goals in a row from Anniello Iannone, Trevor Finnigan and Gerry Pearson.
Undoubtedly, the Terras achieved the giant-killing performance of the day in snatching the game from the fire in unbelievable fashion.
Weymouth staged a great finish, with Pearson becoming the 85th minute hero when he powered his way forward to meet a superbly placed cross from Mark Baber on the right-hand post and hammer the goal which left Cardiff stunned.
“It was a wonderful cross from Mark,” enthused Pearson. “I didn’t let it hit the ground. I just whacked it. It was the most pleasing goal I have ever scored.
“But I couldn’t believe we were 3-2 up! I remember asking Trevor Finnigan, ‘Did it happen?’
“He replied, ‘Just keep running for another five minutes and we are through to the third round’!”
And so it turned out. Shattered Cardiff tried to pile on desperate pressure over the final five minutes, but the Terras held on magnificently to write a new heroic chapter in the club’s history.
A man full of emotion and pride was Weymouth physiotherapist Bob Lucas, who was in the Terras’ team who came from 2-0 down to win 3-2 away to Aldershot in the second round in 1946.
He declared: “This is one of the proudest moments in my footballing life. But what happened today is nothing more than Stuart Morgan deserves because of the work and effort he has put in.
“Stuart had had many critics, particularly over his signings this season, but his heart has always been in the right place, and now I am more than happy for him. He deserves ever credit.
But none of Weymouth’s fans could have been at all happy at the interval, with Cardiff having called the tune to the extent of forcing ten corners without one in reply from the Terras, who were looking downhearted after having conceded two goals.
Kieron Baker fisted clear on several occasions, and twice saved magnificently from the Bennett brothers, Garry and Dave. But he missed a long drive from John Lewis which hit a post.
Weymouth went close early on when Brian Benjafield steered the ball through, Pearson touched it on and Finnigan drove it low to send Cardiff’s teenage goalkeeper, Andy Dibble, full-stretch to save with his fingertips.
But there was not much more from Weymouth in the first-half, in which Cardiff took control.
Cardiff kept looking dangerous in these first 45 minutes and took the lead on the half-hour when Phil Dwyer ran deep to reach a free-kick and head back into the goal area for Roger Gibbins to head home.
In the 36th minute, the lively Dave Bennett scythed his way through to release a perfect forward pass to Jeff Hemmerman, who was on his own in space to score from eight yards.
But what a terrific comeback the fighting Terras made! They forced their first corner in the third minute of the second-half, and Pearson hit a fierce shot wide a moment later.
Now the Terras were take the battle to their high-riding opponents, and they must have been encouraged when a Finnigan shot was somehow scooped from the line by City left-back Paul Bodin as Cardiff appealed in vain for offside.
Then came that marvellous moment when Weymouth finally hit back with a goal in the 54th minutes.
It all started when Baker threw the ball out to Paul Morrell just inside the box. Morrell found Finnigan, who promptly hit the ball wide on the left to Bejafield, who produced a first-rate cross to beat the home defence.
Iannone did the rest. He got up on the far post to head the ball over the top of Dibble, and the Weymouth fans roared their approval as it nestled into the far corner.
“Brian gave me the perfect ball,” said Iannone. “I had only one place to put it – in the top corner.”
Hemmerman headed just wide and Paul Morrell, now looking much more confident in marking Dave Bennett, kept Weymouth in the game when he cleared from right on the line after Hemmerman had beaten Baker with a downward header. A moment later, Baker sprawled in the mud to foil a burst by Gibbins.
But there was no holding Weymouth, who stormed through in the 78th minute to draw level with a well taken goal from the alert Finnigan.
Billy Elliott managed to get the ball out of defence, sliding to push the ball off Gibbins feet. Gary Borthwick and Pearson kept the ball moving, but the move appeared to have come to nothing when Dwyer intercepted.
But then Iannone made a challenge and Dwyer unexpectedly lost possession. Iannone told me later: “I heard Trevor calling for the ball and laid it to him. The next moment it was in the back of the net!”
Finnigan had not hesitated in taking the ball in his stride and cooly hitting it past helpless Dibble.
Could Weymouth possibly produce a fairytale ending to a match which had taken a dramatic turn?
The answer came from the end when the Cardiff goalkeeper made a weak goal-kick, placing the ball towards Barber, who sprinted on to it gratefully, lifted over his peach of a cross to the left-hand post – and Pearson kept running to apply the magnificent finish.
Pearson said he had anticipated the situation from the moment the goalkeeper had kick the ball, although he was at the time well back in his own half.
“I must have ran about 70 yards,” he said. “I saw Mark look up and knew the cross was coming. It was that good a ball that I couldn’t miss.”
Cardiff tried an all-out late assault, but the Weymouth defence, which had worked so hard were not going to key anything pass them now.
They kept tackling and running surprising their league opponents by the way they competed in the heavy conditions and the Weymouth fans most certainly showed their delight at the final whistle! It was handshakes and hugs for Morgan once again. Indeed I am sure they would have given him the freedom of the borough if it had been within their power! Morgan and his men were certainly Saturday’s heroes. They had gone a stage better in winning at Ninian Park than most third division sides so far this season. And they stayed the course in the heavy going just as well as the full-time professionals.
Weymouth: Baker, Peter Morrell, Paul Morrell, Elliott, Arnold, Finnigan, Baber, Pearson, Iannone, Borthwick, Benjafield. Sub: Johnson