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Billy Nasso makes instant impact to send Cornard United through to play-off final against Holland FC after victory over Framlingham Town

Cornard United progressed to the Thurlow Nunn League First Division North play-off final after they came from a goal down to defeat Framlingham Town 2-1 at Badingham Road.

Substitute Billy Nasso, who had been on the pitch for less than a minute, proved to be the difference between the two sides as his low drive from inside the area completed the turnaround for Gary Monti’s visitors – who will travel to Holland FC for a spot in the Premier Division on May 4.

The win was more than deserved as the Ards – who finished 14 points behind the second-placed Castlemen – dominated proceedings to inflict Framlingham’s first league defeat at home since August.

Billy Nasso celebrates. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Billy Nasso celebrates. Picture: Mark Bullimore

Liam Abraham’s side took the lead when Archie Exworth’s trickery and inviting cross forced an own goal but Cornard kept pressing, and should have equalised when Charlie Lindoe failed to score one of three successive chances that fell to him inside the penalty area.

The pressure told and proceedings were levelled before the break after Luke Spurling showed composure to round Edward Cummings and slot home.

Fram huffed and puffed but could not find a second goal to condemn them to another season in the First Division North.

Framlingham Town vs Cornard United. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Framlingham Town vs Cornard United. Picture: Mark Bullimore

Abraham made two changes from Framlingham’s comfortable 4-0 win at home to AFC Sudbury Reserves on Saturday. Niki Shopov and Tom Chilvers were given a spot in the starting line-up as Kie Dyer and Simon Poacher dropped to the bench.

Cornard United boss Monti named three changes to the side that drew 1-1 at Diss Town last weekend as Spurling, Josh McFaull and Ollie Sims replaced Harris Miller, Scott Sloots and Lewis Sonnex. Only Miller was included in the matchday squad.

After early pressure from the home side, it was the visitors who fashioned the first clear-cut chance of the semi-final. Lewis Soraf released a low drive from the edge of the area – which had Fram goalkeeper Edward Cummings rooted to his line – but his effort crashed off the base of the post.

Monti said in the week that he was taking his side to Badingham Road with no fear and that was clear in the early stages of the play-off tie. Lewis Soraf was next to try his luck for Cornard – a well-caught volley from 40 yards that Cummings caught – before Harry Shawyer saw his low effort from just inside the box held by the Castlemen’s shot-stopper.

Framlingham Town vs Cornard United. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Framlingham Town vs Cornard United. Picture: Mark Bullimore

With the league’s two highest-scoring teams going head to head, it was only going to be a matter of time until the deadlock was broken as Abraham’s side drew first blood in the play-off tie. The electric Exworth weaved his way through the Conard defence on the left wing before his toe-poked cross was turned into his own net by a visiting defender.

A goal that came slightly against the run of play but one that did not shift the momentum of the contest, as Cornard, who went into this game on a 12-match unbeaten run, continued to attack with their tails up.

After the ball fell to him in the box from a Ollie Sims cross, Charlie Lindoe had a hat-trick of chances to level proceedings. His first was batted away by Cummings from point-blank range, the second blocked with a last-ditch challenge from Johnny Kerridge before his third strike was deflected wide for a corner.

Framlingham Town vs Cornard United. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Framlingham Town vs Cornard United. Picture: Mark Bullimore

A let off for Framlingham, who continued to ride their luck as Cornard were left to question how they had not found an all-important equaliser. Sims again provided a dangerous delivery from the left, this time Josh McFaull met his cross, but the winger guided his header just over the bar.

The away side’s pressure told eventually however, and they found a deserved equaliser. After Cornard’s players screamed for a handball in the box, Spurling made the most of referee Andrew Crossley’s advantage as he rounded Cummings before slotting the ball home.

Fram winger Ethan Whittingstall enjoyed a lot of possession on the right wing during the first period, occasionally getting the better of Tyler Kemp, but the hosts failed to make the most of his cutbacks into the penalty area, while frontman Max Willett – who has 41 goals to his name from 43 games in all competitions – had an unusually quiet first half.

Max Willett drives Framlingham forward. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Max Willett drives Framlingham forward. Picture: Mark Bullimore

A lull in the contest came after the break as the second half offered a complete contrast to the first, which was full of goalmouth action. Kemp’s free kick on the hour mark – that Cummings beat away – was the first meaningful sight at goal for either team after half-time.

The second period came to a halt on 63 minutes as Sims went down off the ball before he was then forced off the pitch on a stretcher. Colin Athey entered the fray in his place.

The Cornard defenders could be heard shouting to the rest of their players to ‘do it for Simsy’. After this rallying cry, the visitors upped the tempo as McFaull bent a strike wide of left-hand post before he snatched at an effort from inside the box that sailed over the bar.

But the Ards were not left to rue their missed chances as they turned the contest around with 17 minutes remaining. Nasso, who had been on the pitch for only one minute, fired a low left-footed effort from just inside the box that proved too powerful for Cummings to keep out at his near post.

Billy Nasso scores. Picture: Mark Bullimore
Billy Nasso scores. Picture: Mark Bullimore

The hosts put on the pressure in search of an equalising goal and felt they should have had a penalty when Exworth went down in the box, but Crossley was unmoved.

Framlingham Town: Cummings, Ross, Shopov, Kerridge (cpt), Chilvers, Berry, Lucraft (Dyer 70’), G. Exworth, Willett, A. Exworth, Whittingstall.

Cornard United: Lees, Berkane, Kemp, Hughes (cpt), Culleton, Soraf, Spurling, Lindoe, Sims (Athey 66’), Shawyer (Kemp 81’), McFaull (Nasso 72).

Suffolk News Man of the Match: Lewis Soraf – was a handful for Framligham to deal with all game, rallied his side and showed good composure on the ball when needed.

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