Lower league football fans cherish the delights that their local side offer; the cheap bacon butty at half-time, the chance to stand so close to the pitch that you can smell the grass and mud, the freedom to drink a beverage next to the pitch.
What’s more, on the pitch, lower league fans are more likely to witness some truly remarkable scenarios thanks to their league’s lack of reactionary managerial organisation that can be seen in the Premier League. Take the Isthmian League match that took place between Grays Athletic and Hampton and Richmond Borough FC for instance. This was no ordinary 3-2 thriller. With just 25 minutes left and trailing the visitors 2-1, Grays Athletic registered one of their most memorable comebacks ever courtesy of player-manager Mark Bentley.
After pulling a goal back through João Carlos, Grays manager Mark Bentley brought himself on to help overturn the goal deficit. Within 10 minutes of his substitution, Bentley dispatched a glancing header to equalise, much to the delight of his players. His heroics did not end there however. Grays keeper got sent off with 10 minutes left following an altercation in the box, which saw Bentley put himself between the sticks for the resultant penalty and the rest of the match. The player-manager turned keeper kept his cool to save the spot kick and keep his side in the match. Even at this point, fans must have thought they had seen it all. Yet things got even better for the hosts. Bentley’s save provided the momentum to help his side score a last minute winner, as João Carlos got his second goal of the game during the 5 minutes of added time.
Very rarely does a manager’s ‘inspired’ substitution involve the manager himself coming onto the pitch, but Bentley’s decision to bring himself on was crucial in helping his side register their 15th league win of the season. Bentley unfortunately couldn’t replicate his heroics the following week, keeping himself in the dugout as Grays Athletic suffered a last minute equaliser against Leiston FC on Saturday.
At Copa90 we always want to support lower and non-league football as much as possible, and it is even more worth it when moments like this happen. Take a look at how events unfolded at Mill Field Stadium last week!