Cheltenham Town 3, Yate Town 0: Dempsey's heroics in vain as Yate's FA Cup dream is dashed
SO little Yate Town's extraordinary adventure has come to an end and only time will tell the impact their glorious cup campaign has on club and community, as the rude awakening kicks-off in earnest.
On Saturday, they had nearly 900 starry-eyed supporters baying for Cheltenham's blood at one end of the Whaddon Road confines.
Only the most ardent of them will make this Wednesday evening's trek east along the M4 to lend backing to Yate's cause at Swindon Supermarine, where Rob Cousins' FA Cup heroes will recommence their bread-and-butter battle to wrest themselves off the foot of Southern League Division One South & West.
It hardly rings true, that this posse of part-time hopefuls, who have planted some £50,000 into Yate club coffers courtesy of their cup conquests, find themselves heading into the bitter Wiltshire night seeking only a second win of a stop-start league programme.
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Cousins, you fancy, will have to deliver the team-talk of his short managerial life ahead of the Supermarine come-down, as he attempts to lift his players for the harsh realities of league combat following the draining, energy-sapping euphoria of the past fortnight.
And for fleeting spells on Saturday, that epic adventure threatened to continue, not least in the few minutes after Cheltenham had snatched a so-fortuitous third-minute advantage when Kaid Mohamed burst into the Yate box before forcing Josh Dempsey into the first of umpteen saves. Jacob Cox, in trying to hack the loose ball away, inadvertently rifled it against the backside of team-mate Scott Thomas sliding in to add weight to the rescue mission, and into his own net.
It was the worst possible start for Yate, yet in the four minutes after Cheltenham's fluky breakthrough act they might easily have found themselves in front.
Tom Knighton headed Matt Groves' cross against a post with Cheltenham goal celebrations still in full cry, and left-back Cox, delighted to win the call to replace the suspended Ollie Barnes, struck a magnificent curling free-kick against the underside of the crossbar via the fingertips of home keeper Scott Brown, the ball going agonisingly close to crossing the line.
Yate gave as good as they got for long stretches of the first half, with the industrious Knighton and Groves eager to carve openings as part of a three-pronged attack spearheaded by the bustling Mitchell Page, and former Bristol Rovers marksman Groves was frustrated to see a 20-yard attempt fly handsomely over the top after a typically adventurous gallop towards goal.
Enter, stage left, Yate keeper Dempsey, eager to prove his exploits in the previous round against Newport County were no one-offs.
Cheltenham were not shy to test his mettle on the bigger stage and time and again they were left frustrated by the Bluebells super-saver.
He pounced to his right to push behind Lawson D'Ath's rasping right-footer and when the resulting corner came across, he was there to prevent Shaun Harrad's close-range snap-shot flying past him.
Dempsey repeated the feat by acrobatically pushing Russell Penn's 30-yard piledriver over the bar before the cat-like keeper got down swiftly to claw out Keith Lowe's back-post header from the subsequent flag kick.
The Yate goalie also got himself firmly in the way of Sam Deering's far-stick header later in the half, although it wasn't all one-way traffic. Every now and again the visitors threatened and Danny Wring burst forward before sending a low drive narrowly wide of the far post, and fellow midfielder James Harmer will never forget the moment he sent Yate fans wild with delight in front of him by drilling the ball triumphantly into the net, only for the acclaim to be swiftly muted by a rightful offside call.
Cheltenham chief Mark Yates wasted little time ringing the changes, as he withdrew Reading's loan central midfield man D'Ath, who had taken a knock, at the interval to afford Marlon Pack a run-out, and not long after the restart Dempsey was at it again, palming away Sido Jombati's header from a corner, while at the other end Groves forced Brown into making a fine save at full stretch with a swerving 25-yard strike which climaxed some nifty Yate approach work.
Yet it was the arrival of marauding Chris Zebroski, in place of Harrad on the hour mark, that did so much to eventually swing the tie the way of the League Two high-fliers.
The former Bristol Rovers forward was a constant thorn with his raids down Yate's left side, although it was from Billy Jones' 65th-minute corner that Cheltenham claimed their second goal, one-time Forest Green and Bath City striker Mohamed enjoying the freedom of Cheltenham to power a header past Dempsey and in.
To their credit, Yate continued to graft hard and put bodies on the line at the back in a bid to stay in contention, 41-year-old former QPR forward Michael Meaker entering the fray in place of Harmer on 73 minutes and showing some fleet-footedness on the right flank.
But Cheltenham were now in cruise control and substitute Jeff Goulding somehow volleyed Jones' precise left-sided delivery over the top from almost underneath the Yate crossbar, while Zebroski rattled the same bar with a rising effort.
Adnan Hiroli and Mike Bryant were given belated run-outs for the visitors, and Page saw a low drive saved awkwardly by Brown, as Yate sought some late solace, but they could only watch on in disappointment as Zebroski was alive inside the box to drill a loose ball beneath Dempsey's body to wrap up the scoring in stoppage time.
Yate's battle-weary players walked as one to hail their followers, a moment to be savoured. How quickly it could all be forgotten if they fail to reproduce seven momentous FA Cup performances in the hurly-burly world of Southern League activity over the next few crucial weeks.