Many of Non-League’s top talents wait years for the chance to test themselves against Football League opposition…
But for 22-year-old striker Adam Morgan, the chance arrived just a handful of games into his time with National League North side Curzon Ashton, with a huge Emirates FA Cup clash against Wimbledon.
But despite his relative inexperience, the Ladbrokes News team were convinced the Tameside club had a star on their hands, with Morgan banging in the goals since his arrival earlier in the campaign.
That made him an obvious choice for the round’s #VardyVerdict project, as we go in search of the next striking sensation in Non-League. But with the Dons in town, would he shine on the big stage or struggle with the step up?
To get a better idea, our roving reporter caught-up with Nash fan John Bradley, who talked up Morgan’s “professionalism” and “touch of quality”…
Curzon Ashton v AFC Wimbledon: The Match Report
The home fans have barely settled into their seats when it happens. Morgan unleashes a 35-yard stunner which leaves Dons stopper James Shea helpless, and sees the Nash hitman cartwheeling in joy and the home fans in dreamland. 1-0 and there’s less than a minute on the clock.
That prompts a response from the visitors, but despite a period of pressure, they can’t muster a clear opportunity, with the Curzon defence blocking everything their opponents throw at them.
Then, on 21 minutes, the hosts – and Morgan – double their lead with an incredible free-flowing move.
A neat one-two leaves Joe Guest free out wide, and the youngster produces an inch-perfect cross for Morgan to bravely nod home – with Shea knocking the Liverpudlian into the net.
Unsurprisingly, the visitors rally, with Tom Elliott and Jake Reeves both firing fierce shots goalwards, but each are ably kept out by Curzon keeper Hakan Burton.
As we reach half-time, the hosts retain their two-goal lead, having played the slicker and more expansive football. And despite a few scares towards the end of the first period, the 2-0 scoreline is thoroughly deserved.
After a quiet opening to the second period, things spark into life again on the hour mark. Lyle Taylor fires a golden opportunity into the side netting, before, incredibly, the Guest-Morgan partnership teams up for another goal.
The tricky 21-year-old fights off defensive pressure to cross smartly, with Morgan showing his instinctive brilliance with a volleyed finish home. It’s 3-0, and nothing – it seems – can keep magnificent Morgan and his teammates from winning the biggest game in the club’s history.
Alas, heartbreak awaits for the home fans. And while the game’s climax is thrilling, you can’t help but feel for this fantastic and spirited Curzon side.
Wimbledon suddenly fire into life with 10 minutes left. Burton finds himself in no-man’s-land from a corner, with Elliott finishing into an empty net.
A minute later, and Dominic Poleon grabs his 11th of the campaign from another corner. Then the blink of an eye, it’s 3-3, with Tyrone Barnett’s inch-perfect header sending the Wombles faithful wild.
With the pair seemingly heading for a replay in south London, the Dons show their aerial dominance once again, with Elliott pinging home a 94th-minute header. It’s incredibly harsh on the Non-Leaguers, but they exit the pitch to a cacophony of applause from a bumper crowd of 1,731.
In a word: Sensational.
Three superb goals which showcased a player of wonderful striking instinct – a long-range screamer, a precise header and a wonderfully natural volley.
Elsewhere, the one-time Accrington Stanley man’s work-rate, neat footwork and intelligent movement (evidenced above) showed a player with gifts beyond a knack of finding the net.
Indeed, Morgan’s performances have already elevated the club’s form, with two wins in his three National League North outings so far. Not bad for a side in the lower half of the table.
Having utterly outclassed a Wimbledon defence which had shipped just three goals in their previous four games in League One, there’s little doubt that in the long term, he has the class to play high up in English Football – especially with his total at Curzon already well above a goal a game.
However, the 22-year-old looks to be greatly enjoying his time on Tameside right now. and is continuing to develop his game under hugely successful boss John Flanagan.
As professional off the field as on it, Morgan coped with the post-match blues to keep his word, chatting with our man in Ashton after the game.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing