Leighton Town – 5
Norwich CBS – 2
(After extra time: 2-2 after ninety minutes)
Leighton Town were a couple of minutes from being on the end of a cup shock on Saturday at Bell Close, needing a late equaliser to take the match into extra time. They then played the thirty added minutes against a side who were deflated; no surprise as their hard work for eighty-eight minutes looked to have been enough to take them into the final sixteen of the FA Vase, and a three-gaol salvo in eleven minutes in the first half of extra time saw Town progress. Norwich certainly showed their cup shock pedigree which has seen them eliminate four higher level clubs so far this season, and rocked Leighton with an early opener, and again by retaking the lead after the home side had levelled. But three second half substitutions by manager Scott Reynolds proved inspirational and changed the dynamic of the game, with Lorrell Smith coming on and bagging a brace to take his tally in this season’s competition to four.
Norwich took the game to their hosts from the start, asserting themselves to ensure Town did not get any rhythm going, and a third minute run down the right saw a fierce drive from Paul Cook saw home keeper Tom Wyant having to push over for a corner. The corner sent in low saw Leighton skipper Dave Murphy and Cook both meet the ball some three yards out but Cook got his foot on it first to divert home and send the supporters from Norfolk into raptures.
The home side almost replied immediately when a ball up to Lea Coulter got stuck in the mud, as everyone seemed to lose sight of the ball James Hatch stepped in to take control driving at goal, his low curling shot inches wide of Norwich keeper John Howes left hand post. Norwich continued to impress and had the majority of the play for the opening twenty minutes, but slowly Leighton got their game going, and a series of corners were defended brilliantly by the visiting side.
A header from Hatch in the thirty-third minute saw a clearance off the line, and a follow up shot blocked by another Norwich body as they put their bodies on the line. At this stage it really didn’t look as though Leighton were going to test Howes, but from the resulting corner the ball found Coulter at the back post totally unmarked and he had time to launch himself at the cross and power his header home to equalise.
A long range effort from Carl Tappin that easily cleared the crossbar was the closest either side came before the interval, and during the break CBS were forced to reshuffle when goal scorer Cook was forced off injured. H/T: 1-1
The first chance of the second period fell to Norwich, where out on the right substitute Stephen Drake smashed at goal but well wide. Straight up the other end Lewis McBride was given some freedom to explore the eighteen yard line but his shot flew a yard wide, before a cross from Coulter found Hatch on the penalty spot but his header was straight at Howes who gathered under his own crossbar.
Then on sixty-one minutes the Norfolk side stunned their hosts when they retook the lead, a ball down the right saw Matt Doyle in behind and despite heavy pressure from a covering defender and Wyant coming out to narrow the angle, Doyle brilliantly knocked the ball inbetween the two Town players and into the unguarded net.
Leighton piled on the pressure looking for another equaliser; Alex O’Brien thumped a free kick into Howes gloves from just outside the area, and a cross from McBride found substitute Dom Marsala at the back post who headed back across goal looking for Coulter but Howes was on it in a flash.
McBride had another mazy run down the left, beating two men he crossed to Hatch who could only head wide, and with five minutes left full back James Towell was sent away down the Town right to drive at goal, his stinging shot was brilliantly turned away for a corner by Howes. The corner swung in and was flicked on & Lorrell Smith headed over. It looked as though Leighton were exiting the competition!
With two minutes left McBride sent the Bedfordshire faithful into raptures with the goal to level the tie once more. A throw to Leighton saw a couple of flicks on and at the back post McBride leapt to stroke the ball home and leave the Norwich defence floored. The remaining few minutes saw the home side throw everything at their guests, but they stood resolute to force extra time. F/T: 2-2
Four minutes into added time saw Leighton take the lead for the first time in the game, when Lorrell Smith received the ball on the corner of the Norwich box, within a split second he’d turned a marker pushed the ball forward and then slotted past Howes and in. The celebration by the Leighton players said it all, as the striker was piled on by most of his team mates.
Norwich were now down to ten men when substitute Dean Mortimer was himself forced off with injury and with all three substitutes made CBS were down to ten men, which Leighton capitalised on. Two minutes after taking the lead Town sealed the game when Smith again received the ball out on the left and simply ran at goal, no serious challenge came in and he slotted home from ten yards out.
Moments later Marsala almost got on the scoresheet, a cross from the left found the Leighton man in the middle unmarked where he had time to take a touch before flashing a shot across Howes and the ball bounced off the base of the post and out for a goal kick.
On the stroke of the extra time half time whistle Tappin did get a fifth for the home side, Hatch crossed from the left and as the ball travelled across the box no one seemed to want to make contact until Tappin thumped home from twelve yards.
Leighton saw out the second half of extra time comfortably, Norwich were on their knees by this stage, rocked by the first fifteen minutes of extra time, and with a body less were never going to match the fitness of the Town side. A late free kick was blazed high & wide by CBS defender Lewis Johnson, the only notable chance of the second period for either side. F/T: 5-2
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After the match Sports Shots caught up with Leighton manager Scott Reynolds:
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