Ware 2 Witham Town 1
Nerve shredding end to game but Ware progress in the FA Cup. Draw for next round on Monday.
From a position of some comfort Ware slowly saw their grip on the game loosened as the visitors came back to almost force a draw.
Ware started well enough and played some good football to open up the visitors' defence but after Denzel Conteh's early goal they couldn't improve on their score until late in the half. Conteh had benefitted from a high ball into the Witham area that was laid off by Yannick Kamanan to give him the opportunity to strike the ball home with his right foot after six minutes.
After that Ware's flowing football was countered by Witham's speed on the break and there were several opportunities for an equaliser but all were wasted. During this period Ware were winning the midfield battle with Finbarr Robins doing particularly well whilst Witham were just making too many mistakes, shooting wide or misdirecting passes.
But Ware were vulnerable to quick breaks. With an injury to Junior Appiah forcing them to play three at the back, Gareth Madden went to the right of the defensive line rather than in the centre of a back four but he was caught out by the darting run of Nathan Koranteng just before the half hour. A cynical foul brought an end to the run and a yellow card for the Ware man.
It was the first of several cards to be handed out to both sides particularly towards the end of the game as tempers frayed under the pressure. Koranteng was himself the next recipient just six minutes later after he failed for the third time to heed the repeated advice of Mr Forrester to keep quiet and let him referee the game.
Madden was back in action in added time at the end of the half and this time as a hero when his timely tackle in the penalty area saved a dangerous situation. As a result Ware broke up field with Marcus Milner taking the ball down the right before sending over a cross into the Witham area. Kamanan was there and steadied the ball with his back to goal before turning to shoot home for 2-0.
It was just what Ware needed on the verge of half time and had they been able to turn early pressure in the second half into a third goal the game would have been as good as over. They had their chance on 52 minutes when a flowing move from their own penalty area ended with a cross into the Witham area. Rheo Josephs was there but somehow the chance eluded him as he struggled to stay onside.
Witham slowly pulled themselves into the game after that and might have had some reward after 57 minutes when they broke forward only for the final effort to be hit high over the bar.
They did get a goal with just over 15 minutes of normal time left. A free kick just outside the Ware penalty area was put away by Elliott Ronto with questions once again being asked about the defensive wall.
Ware might still have made the game safe when Lee White's header from a corner drifted just wide but much of the remaining time was spent with fingers crossed and nails bitten until the final whistle signalled relief for the home support.
Ware: Tom Coulton, Gareth Madden, Alaa Oujdi, Ryan Hervel, Lee White, Denzel Conteh (Ahmed Mohammed 54mins), Marcus Milner, Finbarr Robins, Yannick Kamanan, Rheo Josephs (Prince Madu 66mins), Elliott Charles (Murat Karagul 73mins). Unused subs: Marvin Hamilton, Bradley Kay, Oreoluwa Ogunleye.