Bridgwater Town 3 Bushin 24, Griffiths 87, O'Connor 116
Saints 3 Hedley 85, Fitzgerald 86, Walker 95
2-2 after 90 mins, 3-3 after extra time, Bridgwater win 5-3 on penalties
FA Trophy Preliminary Round Replay (Tuesday 8 October)
An heroic display that saw a partisan home crowd applauding them from the field of play was ultimately fruitless as Saints were knocked out of the FA Trophy thanks to a penalty shootout.
If they were shocked to stagger through to a replay when the teams first met on Saturday, Bridgwater's level of expectation was not remotely diminished as the tiny band of Saints supporters was welcomed with commiserations for the expected pointlessness of their long journey to the West Country.
Leon Osei had the chance to silence the crowd after 17 minutes but wanted too much time with the goal at his mercy. When top scorer Joe Bushin headed in at the far post after 24 minutes the home confidence rose to the extent they made an early substitution to rest another player with more than an eye on their big FA Cup tie at the weekend.
A superbly struck free kick by John Carroll demanded a matching save from the keeper on the half hour and minutes later some good passing saw Scott Fitzgerald having his close range shot blocked by the post.
With both sets of players struggling to come to terms with the slippery surface it was still all to play for at the break.
Gareth Paxton was unable to continue in the second half and so Saints had to reshuffle their backline, which had been playing so well, with the outstanding Liam having to switch sides. The game turned on the hour when, in a bizarre moment and with ball being moved along one side of the pitch, the linesman on the other side saw something involving Leon Osei and the referee immediately brandished a red card, to the bemusement of pretty much everyone. This could, and perhaps should, have meant curtains for Saints but with Danny Edwards making some positive substitutions the game opened up. Remmel Clarke was set up in the box but miskicked horribly. By now the home side was visibly tiring and unable to take advantage of the player advantage. Saints were playing with more confidence and were looking the most likely to move the scoreline.
With five minutes remaining, substitute Asen Valchev swung in a perfect corner for Scott Fitzgerald to head back across goal where Alan Hedley was on hand to tap in to level the scores. The turnaround came just a minute later as a weaving run through the middle by Romaine Walker found Asen Valchev and his pass again picked out Scott Fitzgerald who netted to put Saints ahead for the first time.
Bridgwater seemed down and out but got a huge slice of luck minutes later when Michael Power-Simpson slipped when going for a deep cross and was unable to prevent Dean Griffiths from looping his header into an empty net to force extra time.
The momentum was now with Saints and there were increasing murmurs of appreciation from the crowd for the huge efforts and the undoubted skills being shown by the visitors. A long ball found Scott Fitzgerald and he set Romaine Walker free for a mazy run before scoring to put Saints ahead again after 95 minutes. For the next 20 minutes Saints looked more and more comfortable but the herculean effort of playing with 10 players for nearly an hour finally told in the last five minutes when Daine O'Connor was unchallenged for a long ball and he rammed home the equaliser.
A soft penalty awarded in the very last seconds to the home side could have spoiled an excellent game but Dean Griffiths blasted high and wide to force a penalty shootout. With the home side faultless from the spot, despite Power-Simpson very nearly saving the first, it was enough to win the game. For Saints, Scott Fitzgerald, Asan Valchev and Romaine Walker all scored with their kicks while John Carroll hit the post with his.
The applause from the home crowd was genuine and a recognition that Saints had played the better football and deserved more than they got. Given their recent form, this was an immense performance and one that Danny Edwards and his squad will be hoping to build on.
Saints: Michael Power-Simpson, Kevin Ayodele (Remmel Clarke 65), Ronayne Marsh-Brown, Gareth Paxton (Romaine Walker 46), Liam Fowler, John Carroll, Luke Brook-Smith (Asen Valchev 70), Alex Paine, Leon Osei, Scott Fitzgerald, Alan Hedley.
Attendance: 156 Star Player: Liam Fowler