Jonté Smith misses out on Wembley for second time in nine months
Jonté Smith experienced heartache with a trip to Wembley Stadium in sight for the second time in nine months, when Woking were beaten 1-0 by Hereford in the Buildbase FA Trophy semi-finals on Saturday.
The Woking and Bermuda forward’s final match with Cheltenham Town last June ended in a 3-0 second-leg defeat by Northampton Town in the Sky Bet League Two play-off semi-finals.
That result overturned a 2-0 win in the first leg and denied Cheltenham the chance to face Exeter City under football’s most famous arch for the right to play the 2020-21 season in League One.
Smith was injured in that match, released by the end of the week and then was without a club until signing in January for fifth-tier Woking, in the Vanarama National League, and being catapulted into a cup run.
Stunning victories followed over promotion candidates Sutton United and Torquay United, but it was ended at the Edgar Street ground of a club who now play in the sixth tier of the football pyramid.
The goal that sent Hereford into the showpiece final on May 22 against Hornchurch came courtesy of a 21st-minute header by Joey Butlin.
Smith, a 70th-minute substitute for the second straight match after three weeks in which he was either an unused sub or not in the squad at all, was unable to affect the final outcome.
However, his previous appearance, against Wealdstone last Tuesday, was praiseworthy enough that he was considered for man-of-the-match honours in the 1-0 win.
According to the Woking match report, the 26-year-old was “very much involved in the goal and received words of recognition and great encouragement from his captain as they returned for the kick-off. He impressed with his hard work during his 20-minute spell, competing in the air, receiving and laying off the ball with his back to the goal, and battling near the corner”.
Bermudian football fans with long memories would have been torn when Woking, who have won this competition for mostly semi-professional clubs a joint-record three times, were matched with Hereford with a place at Wembley at stake.
The former Hereford United are the local club of Jon Beard, deputy head of school at Saltus Grammar, who took an inaugural school football tour through there in 1979. The Bermuda connection was reignited more than a decade later when national team defenders Kentoine Jennings and Meschach Wade joined Hereford for two seasons in 1991-92.
The club, most famous for beating Newcastle United in an FA Cup third-round replay at Edgar Street in February 1972 when in the old fourth division, fell on hard times financially and was dissolved in 2014 — returning renamed as Hereford FC.
Hornchurch, who play in the seventh-tier Isthmian Premier Division, completed a day of upsets by coming from behind against Notts County three times in regulation time to draw 3-3 and prevailing 5-4 on penalties after extra time failed to break the deadlock.