Wednesday 14th November 2025
In their first 5 years, the FA Cup has been a bit of a mixed bag for FC Isle of Man. Entering the competition for the 1st time in 2021/22, the club reached the 2nd Qualifying Round before giving a spirited performance against Boston United of the Vanarama North, falling to a heartbreakingly narrow defeat during stoppage time in the end. The joyful emotions of that day giving the supporters a taster of the thrills that the magic of the FA Cup can provide.
The other flip of the coin has also provided disappointing exits early on at the hands of minnows Oakwood (2022/23) and Royston Town (2023/24). A trip to the well supported Dulwich Hamlet in the 3rd Qualifying Round last season was the culmination of FC Isle of Man’s best ever performance and an enjoyable little cup run it was too.
This season’s campaign has easily exceeded that of the previous one. A routine 2-1 win over Rocester, a 5-2 thrashing over Romford, an impressive win over Eastbourne Boro and a 3-1 win over Hungerford Town at The Bowl.
AFC Telford beckoned in the 4th Qualifying Round, a home tie and with a big gate expected, exciting times indeed. The Ravens of course met Telford last season in the FA Trophy, losing 2-0.
FA Trophy fixture commitments have meant tonight’s tie with AFC Telford has been put back a few days until after the 4th Qualifying Round was originally scheduled. More by luck than anything else, this ensured the name FC Isle of Man was in the hat for the televised draw for the FA Cup 1st Round for the 1st time ever. The clubhouse at The Bowl was packed as players, staff and supporters alike watched a former lower league journeyman, with a couple of early round FA Cup memories to speak of, pick out the balls live from the BT Sport studio. As exciting a moment as it was, groans were heard when FC Isle of Man or AFC Telford were drawn with Carlisle City of the Northern Football League Division 1, the lowest ranked club left in the competition. Of all the big clubs in the draw they could have been paired with like Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Bolton Wanderers, they got Carlisle bloody City! Not even Carlisle United!
It’s 20 minutes before kick off at The Bowl in Douglas, home of FC Isle of Man. There are unprecedented levels of support present at the ground with the queues at the turnstiles still 8-10 deep with fans trying to get inside. The game is a near sell out and is bound to eclipse the previous record attendance held from 2021 when 1,958 intrigued fans turned up to watch The Ravens take on Newark in the 1st Qualifying Round of the FA Cup.
The Ravens go into the game full of confidence, 10 games unbeaten in all competitions. Once again, club legend Brian Esperance has begun the season on fire with 12 goals, it’s like his broken hip never happened. New signing Lewis Whitham isn’t far behind him on 9 goals so far.
AFC Telford, managed by former Crawley Town midfielder Tony Craig, 41 and with over 500 Football League appearances to his name, are mid-table in the Vanarama North. Their squad is littered with quality that has been schooled in the Football League, experience which FC Isle of Man does not currently possess. Striker Tra Lucas, formerly on the books at Luton Town, former Manchester United scholar Sam Allardyce in defence, Gael Kileba a once West Ham United youth, from the Southampton conveyor belt Nathan Taylor in midfield and Tyrone Thompson a former Tottenham Hotspur academy winger to name but a few.
There’s tin foil FA Cups, painted faces and fancy dress all around The Bowl with the floodlights beaming down onto the artificial surface. The fans have got on board with the spirit of the occasion and the atmosphere is like nothing seen at The Bowl before. An old skool air horn is sounded amongst the loud cheers as the players walk out into what probably can be described as, for the first time ever at The Bowl, a cauldron like atmosphere. It actually feels like a real game for a change.
FC Isle of Man: Davidson, Currie, Ajibode, Morris, Duffy, Magee, Grant, Johnson, Samms, Whitham, Esperance (c). Subs: Chircop, Nielsen, Brown, Cunningham, Townsend, Nwafor, Reid
AFC Telford United: Simpson, Sears, Allardyce, Bennett, Boyes, Taylor, McDonald, Thompson, Haughton, Kileba, Lucas. Subs: Huddart, Senior, Harlock, Bellis, Elewa-Ipakwu, Thorne, Jenkinson.
37th minute – Leke Ajibode plays the ball in field to Bobby Johnson who sidefoots a sloppy square pass towards his cenral midfield colleague David Grant which is easily intercepted. Haughton runs menacingly forward with the ball gaining territorial advantage for Telford. Telford knock it around nicely before Matthew McDonald spots the run of Kileba and plays an incisive though ball to the striker. Kileba hits a powerful rocket into the bottom corner. 1-0 Telford.
Half-time: FC Isle of Man 0-1 AFC Telford. The game is still in the balance, but like the last time the Ravens met this oppositon, fears are that Telford may turn the screw in the second period.
74th minute: FC Isle of Man’s set piece specialist Bobby Johnson delivers a corner into the heart of the Telford goalmouth which is met commandingly by Alex Morris. The big man’s header is good and The Ravens have found an equaliser. Manager Chris Bass is all smiles and gives a thumbs up to his trusted centre-back who has just put FC Isle of Man back in this cup tie. The atmosphere is ramped up, The Bowl has never seen or heard anything like this before.
89th minute: It’s a battelfield out there currently. Telford send a long ball over the top with FC Isle of Man sitting very deep trying to contain the opposition. Alex Morris, the hero from 15 miutes before jumps for the high ball but mistimes his jump and misses the ball. Jared Harlock is on hand to finish and it look’s he has won the game for Telford in a cruel twist. The Telford players all pile on Harlock by the corner flag. They celebrate like they have won it and avoided a banana skin. Poor Alex Morris, crouched over in anguish, he knows his mistake has been costly. The Ravens fans don’t accept the unfortunate situation and immediately drown down the celebrating 100 or so Telford fans with shouts of encouragement of their own, they are trying to play their part.
90+1st minute: FC Isle of Man have a free-kick near the halfway line. The final whistle is fast approaching. There’s no time for the usual routine of Bobby Johnson co-ordinating his players and analysing the direction and strength of the Douglas breeze to deliver a precision ball. Desperate to redeeem himself, Alex Morris hurriedly places the ball down, waves his teammates up the field before launching a hit and hope high ball into the crowd of players. Lewis Whitham, chases the hopeful ball which surprisingly catches the Telford players off guard. The ball is good, bounces just before the penalty spot, Whitham is free and stabs it home and the net ripples. Unbelievable! The Ravens have just saved the cup tie. They reckon you could hear the cheers in Douglas town centre 3/4 of a mile away.
Full time: FC Isle of Man 2-2 AFC Telford. Late drama and the tie heads into extra time. The fans at The Bowl remain in place to see who will progress to the favourable 1st Round draw with lowly Carlisle City.
End of 120 minutes: FC Isle of Man 2-2 AFC Telford. Not much to report in a cagey extra-time period. This will be decided by a penalty shoot-out.
Penalties: Telford captain Ryan Sears, another experienced campaigner with spells at Shrewsbury Town and Notts County wins the coin toss and elects to shoot first.
20 year old midfielder Nathan Taylor is up first for AFC Telford. Davidson goes the right way, but Taylor’s kick is unstoppable into the roof of the net. 0-1
FC Isle of Man’s legendary striker Brian Esperance, the ice man, the man for the big occasion makes his way from the centre circle. The man ruled out in February for supposedly 8 months with a broken hip and then just misses 8 games in all. Mr FC Isle of Man who has hardly done wrong in the last 5 years. Hits it wide!!! Gasps of terror heard as the ball smacks off the advertisement board rather than the net. Not many saw that coming. 0-1
The experienced Jack Senior steps up for Telford. The 29 year old left back has 10 EFL League 2 appearances for Luton in his locker. He hits his left footed shot low into the bottom right corner, a great penalty. He punches the air towards the Telford fans. 0-2
Bobby Johnson, the set-piece specialist for the last 2 seasons. The Bowl falls silent as he delivers a carbon copy of Brian Esperance’s wide penalty into the advertisement boards. Trailling by 2 goals, FC Isle of Man will need a hero in Jordan Davidson now. 0-2
Tra Lucas for Telford next. Wallop! Another fantastic penalty! The former Luton player made no mistake there. 0-3
Lewis Witham, your island needs you. A cool side-footed effort from his left peg into the bottom left corner. and the Ravens are finally off the mark, but it’s probably too little too late. 1-3
Jared Harlock can win it for Telford here. The 22 year old walks up with the ball in his hand and places it on the spot. As pressure penalties go, Harlock has the freedom of knowing he has a 2 goal cushion as security. As expected, he confidently runs up and his penalty nestles low in the bottom left corner. Job done. The celebrations commence for Telford with the obligatory run to the corner flag followed by a pile-on. 1-4
Full-time: FC Isle of Man 2-2 (1-4 pens) AFC Telford. Reaching the 1st Round proper of the FA Cup for the 1st time would have been nice but it wasn’t to be. A record crowd at The Bowl, a great occasion but more importantly, a few quid in the coffers. Maybe next year.
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