PLUCKY Plough Barflies were beaten 4-3 after extra-time in their first appearance in the final of the Notts FA Sunday Senior County Cup.
In a match laced with brilliant goals, the Hucknall outfit battled back from 2-0 down to lead 3-2 against crack Mansfield League side Bilsthorpe Celtic.
But Bilsthorpe striker Gavin King rifled a 20-yard winner into the roof of the net 12 minutes into the extra half-hour.
The final, which attracted a record crowd of 526, was played at the Kirklington Road ground of Rainworth Miners Welfare, one of Hucknall Town’s rivals in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Inspired by a midfield masterclass from Richard Harrison, Barflies could be proud of their committed performance against a talented Bilsthorpe side boasting three or four players who ply their trade at a good level of Saturday football.
But Dean ‘Brow’ Wealthall’s team could not have made a worse start as they fell behind with less than three minutes on the clock. A through-ball caught their backline flatfooted and impressive frontman Julian Topliss outpaced centre-half Lenny Jenkins before crashing home.
It was 2-0 on 17 when goalkeeper Aaron Wilby, under pressure, was unable to hold on to a corner, allowing centre-back Cliff Clark to ram into an unguarded net.
And Barflies’ misery deepened when assistant manager Sean Melbourne, angry that the referee had not blown for a foul on Wilby, was sent off for an abusive rant from the sidelines.
However the locals grabbed a lifeline five minutes later when a harmless-looking corner from the right somehow found its way across the face of goal for Richard Harrison to bundle the ball home from close range.
Bilsthorpe responded with a shot from winger Aaron Wallis that rattled a post. But Barflies levelled four minutes from the interval with a magnificent goal fit to grace any cup final.
A cross from the right was partially cleared to man-of-the-match Harrison, who unleashed a whiplash of a right-foot volley from fully 30 yards that whistled into the bottom corner.
The second half was quieter but Barflies were in dreamland in the 66th minute when snatching the lead. Tremendous work by David Marlow set up top scorer Joe Ashurst, who sidestepped a defender before clipping a shot past advancing ‘keeper Dale Shepard.
Unfortunately, the advantage lasted just eight minutes as Bilsthorpe’s star man, Topliss, who plays for Shirebrook Town in the Northern Counties East League, pulled another gem from his locker. This time he lashed home the sweetest of left-foot strikes after good work down the right by substitute Youndry Depass.
The match remained evenly poised. But either side of Bilsthorpe’s winning goal, Barflies were left cursing a couple of crucial misses. First substitute Ant Wallis blazed a shot over the bar when well placed and then a one-on one for Dave Marlow was half-smothered by Shepard before being cleared off the line.
DON’T MISS FULL-PAGE MATCH-REPORT AND PICTURES IN NEXT FRIDAY’S PAPER.