The Notts FA Senior Cup dream of Hucknall Rolls Leisure was swamped by an avalanche of goals in a crazy quarter-final on Tuesday night.
Making their first appearance in the last eight, Rolls tackled Retford United, who play two levels above them and lifted the prestigious trophy only six years ago.
After falling three goals down, The Rollers battled back to 3-3 but then leaked three more goals in an amazing final five minutes to bow out 6-3.
It was a pulsating tie at Cannon Park that deserved a far bigger audience than the official crowd-figure of 58. And despite letting in six, Rolls managers Jez Corthorn and Jonathan ‘Toddy’ Wass refused to be too critical of their young side after the “tremendous character and determination” they showed to bet back into the game.
Retford are struggling in the nether regions of the Northern Counties East League’s Premier Division. But they dominated the opening half, scoring twice, hitting the bar with a Jimmy Walker free-kick and also having strong claims for a penalty rejected when Josh Batty appeared to be brought down by ‘keeper Jack Walker.
Both goals were netted by Badgers’ dangerman Ben Muirhead, who cut inside the box to fire past Walker in the 15th minute and then headed home a Batty cross only moments later.
Although Rolls began to make their mark, missing a sitter just before the break, it looked a case of game over on 57 when Retford netted their third. This time, Muirhead created it, delivering a cross that was thumped home by Leigh Hutchinson.
However, the Hucknall outfit refused to buckle and staged a storming fightback that really should have taken the tie to extra-time.
In the 65th minute, centre-back James Duncan met a Chay Bettridge corner with a glancing header. In the 70th minute, wing-back Jamie ‘Midge’ Thomas arrived at the far post to finish from six yards. And as the tension mounted, it was all-square in the 83rd minute when midfielder Jack James levelled with a sweet strike from 12 yards.
Sadly, the hard work was ruined just two minutes later when Rolls were caught the wrong side of a quickly-taken free-kick and Greg Conn conceded a diasastrous penalty that Muirhead converted to complete his hat-trick and put Retford 4-3 up.
The action-packed closing minutes had to be seen to be believed, with Rolls swarming forward in a second bid to save the tie, but Retford picking them off on the break.
Substitute Jack Allen had an effort cleared off the line and skipper Aaron Short rattled the bar with a thunderous 25-yard strike.
But Retford made their chances count to progress to the semi-finals. Joe Knowles turned in a cross by Hutchinson, who then pounced on an error by goalie Walker.
In the end, it was all so cruel on a Rolls side who were praised all round for their heroic efforts, especially as they were without three key players in Harry Allen and the Matthews brothers, Jack and Kane.
ROLLS LINE-UP (3-4-1-2) -- Walker/ Buckley, Short, Duncan/ Smith R., Conn, James, Thomas/ Harrison R./ Smith J., Bettridge. SUBS: Start A., Brooks, Allen J.