Hebburn Town striker Graeme Armstrong makes big admission ahead of Wembley FA Vase final
The former Gateshead and South Shields frontman scored twice as his side battled manfully to take their semi-final tie at Corinthian into a penalty shoot-out.
It was the Southern Counties East League club that took the lead from the penalty spot when Oscar Housego fired past Mark Foden after the Hornets keeper was harshly pulled up for a challenge on Andres Tobon.
Things got worse for Kevin Bolam’s men when Olly Martin was shown a straight red card for a tackle on hosts keeper Aiden Prall.
With timing running out, the Hornets were given a lifeline when Armstrong was fouled in the area with just two minutes left on the clock.
The veteran striker kept his cool to rifle an unstoppable penalty beyond Prall and sent the tie into extra-time.
Ten minutes of the additional 30 had passed when Armstrong doubled his tally and put his side ahead for the first time in the tie when he rounded off some neat work from Michael McKeown.
With Wembley drawing even closer, Corinthian were given a route back into the game when referee Aidrian Quelch surprisingly pulled up Dan Groves for a challenge on Eman Oloyede.
Jamie Billings took the resultant spot-kick and made no mistake to send the tie into a nerve-shredding penalty shoot-out.
But there was no need for concern as Hebburn held their nerve by scoring all four of their spot-kicks.
Keeper Mark Foden kept out Jack Bath’s effort and Louie Clarke skied the decisive penalty to set off wild celebrations from the travelling support in Kent as they turned their attention towards a historic
visit to Wembley.
Armstrong paid tribute to his team-mates – but revealed that the visit to the Home of Football could be a special moment in what could be the final season of his career.
He told The Gazette: “It’s a special, special day for the club.
“For me personally, and for the team, it’s just a phenomenal achievement.
“We went down to ten men, things weren’t going our way, but after the penalty, we were the better side.
“The lads gave everything, and I am so, so proud of the team.
“Walking out at Wembley will be another special day – but for myself, to potentially finish off my career by potentially winning the Vase would be massive.
“I have spoken about this possibly being my last season, we shall see.
“It sounds daft, but we almost had no right to win the game."
Hebburn will meet a familiar foe under the arch at Wembley in just three weeks’ time.
Northern League Division One rivals Consett also secured their place in the September 27th final on Saturday as a Calvin Smith goal five minutes from the end of extra-time gave them a win against Western League club Bitton.
The result means that the two sides will compete in the first all-Northern League Vase Final since Dunston UTS claimed a 2-0 win against West Auckland Town in 2012.