NERVOUS Hucknall Town rode their luck to scrape into the next round of the FA Cup after a nailbiting, extra-time replay victory over Holbeach United on Wednesday night.
After last Saturday’s goalless draw at Watnall Road (SEE BELOW), The Yellows were hoping to take control of a tie against a side who play a level below them.
But they were forced to survive the home side hitting the woodwork three times — and a second sending off in recent weeks for striker Nick Ghislanzoni — before coming through 3-1 after normal time had finished 1-1.
The heroes of the hour (or extra half hour) were substitutes Matt Baxter and Carl Westcarr, who each popped up with a vital goal to settle the contest.
The hard-fought victory in the Preliminary Qualifying Round of the historic competition now sets up a visit to Matlock Town a week tomorrow (Saturday September 17) in the next round.
But no-one connected with Town was looking that far ahead during what assistant manager Gary Stones described as “a typical blood and thunder FA Cup tie” at Holbeach.
Despite an early scare when Andrew Tidswell had a close-range strike ruled out for offside, things started well for The Yellows as Ghislanzoni, who would later get his marching orders, opened the scoring on 31 minutes.
As the ball dropped to him he buried a crisp shot for the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League, Division One South side.
But just six minutes into the second period, the home side, who play in the United Counties League, were back on level terms when Jonny Allen curled in a stunner.
Town were ruffled and Holbeach almost took advantage as Tidswell cracked against the angle of post and bar with James Lindley beaten.
Holbeach then almost snatched it with the last kick of normal time but a Mitch Griffiths strike cannoned off the inside of a post and dropped into the hands of a relieved Lindley.
Incredibly, Adam Jackson also fired a dipping 25-yard drive off the bar in the first additional period before Baxter, in the 105th minute, and then Westcarr, with a minute remaining, hit the hosts with late sucker punches.
Baxter stunned the boisterous home crowd on the stroke of the interval in extra time with an oustanding 25-yard volley that nestled in the right-hand corner of the net.
Holbeach were buoyed by a straight red for Ghislanzoni moments later as he was dismissed for an apparent elbow on Adam Jackson.
The home side pushed forward in numbers. But they were caught on the break by a late third from Westcarr, who beat ‘keeper Leigh Overton to seal Town’s progress in a competition where they have never made the First Round proper.