AT the self-styled ‘Venue of Legends’, Ryan Kendall wrote his name into Wembley folklore alongside Adam Nicklin as North Ferriby United claimed FA Trophy glory in the most dramatic of fashions.
Kendall, a 25-year-old former Hull City junior who is now a full-time student, is such an unfamiliar figure outside Yorkshire football circles that yesterday’s team-sheet named him as ‘Ryan Kenda’.
Wrexham supporters, however, are unlikely to ever forget a striker whose only previous goals above Conference North level before yesterday had come when on loan at Bradford City.
He managed to score just twice during that short spell at Valley Parade in 2010, a tally he matched in quite glorious fashion at Wembley to spark an incredible comeback by the part-timers of North Ferriby.
Two goals down with just 15 minutes remaining, the East Riding club forced a pulsating final into extra-time before then going ahead through Kendall’s second strike of the afternoon.
Not even a dramatic late equaliser by Louis Moult could deflect the Villagers from their quest, as Billy Heath’s men prevailed in a heart-stopping shoot-out that provided another hero in goalkeeper Nicklin.
In his first game since saving two penalties in the semi-final triumph over Bath City, the 25-year-old gym instructor, now fully recovered from an ankle injury, went one better this time around by keeping out a trio of Wrexham spot-kicks.
With Nathan Peat, Matt Wilson, Nathan Jarman and Liam King all holding their nerves from 12 yards, it meant glory for United and a fitting way for Heath to celebrate his 700th game as a manager.
“It is unbelievable for a football club like ourselves,” said the Villagers chief. “It is a bit of a fairytale and I am sure the boys, the chairman and everyone involved will enjoy this for a long time to come.
“For myself, it hasn’t really sunk in. Everything is a bit of a blur. Maybe in a couple of days’ time, it will be different.
“But I did think beforehand if we could impose our game on Wrexham, we had a chance. We were big underdogs but I told the players that if they believed, we had a chance. At 2-0 down, it maybe didn’t look that way.
“We gave Wrexham far too much respect in the first 25 minutes. But we stuck at it and the half-time team-talk was about imposing ourselves on them.
“I thought the guys showed tremendous resilience and once it was 2-1, our players could smell that Wrexham were shocked.
“We should have won it in normal time but, obviously, we got there in the end. It was a great day for this football club.”
Just getting to non-League football’s showpiece occasion was an achievement for North Ferriby. No less than 276 clubs entered the Trophy this season and the final is invariably an all-Conference affair.
There was, though, no sign of the Yorkshire club being intimidated on the big stage.
Even after falling behind to an 11th-minute poacher’s strike from Louis Moult, another Valley Parade loanee from the past, North Ferriby refused to be unbowed with Jason St Juste, in particular, finding a liking for the lush, green open spaces of Wembley.
St Juste, who turned down a call-up from St Kitts & Nevis for a World Cup qualifier double-header against the Turks & Caicos Islands to realise his dream of playing at Wembley yesterday, caused all sorts of problems for the Red Dragons with his pace and trickery out wide.
Just before the break, he created a good opening for Danny Clarke only for the subsequent shot to be blocked.
Clarke had also brought a fine save from Andy Coughlin just before that and the Wrexham goalkeeper was back in action early in the second half when called on to deny St Juste after another mazy run.
Coughlin’s heroics looked to have paid off when Jay Harris took advantage of some poor marking by United to pick his spot past Nicklin on the hour.
Falling two goals behind had been rough on North Ferriby, even if the Conference North outfit had looked vulnerable at the back on a few too many occasions.
But any thoughts that the drama was over for the afternoon when Harris made it 2-0 were soon dispelled by a quite extraordinary comeback.
Clarke being upended by Coughlin on 75 minutes proved the catalyst, Michael Oliver pointing to the spot and captain Liam King doing the rest from 12 yards in convincing fashion.
Kendall entered the fray five minutes later and it proved to be an inspired substitution by Heath as the former Tigers trainee prodded in an equaliser after more tricky wing play from St Juste on the left.
Wrexham, by now, bore the look of a shell-shocked side and it took a fine one-handed save by Coughlin to keep out Clarke’s dipping shot just before Oliver blew to signal extra-time
North Ferriby landed the first blow after the restart by taking the lead when St Juste’s cross was headed in by Kendall just before the end of the first period.
That looked to be that only for Moult to seemingly break Yorkshire hearts with a smart half-volley finish just two minutes from time.
Cue penalties and after North Ferriby had taken a 3-2 lead, four consecutive spot-kicks were missed. St Juste and Tom Denton were the guilty parties for United but the pair’s blushes were spared by Nicklin keeping out efforts from Connor Jennings and Neil Ashton.
Those misses left Moult needing to net Wrexham’s fifth penalty to send the shoot-out into sudden death. He duly did so, but when Steve Tomassen’s effort was saved by Nicklin it was all over as North Ferriby celebrated a quite stunning triumph.