FAV5R; Leighton send Wolves packing to reach ¼ final

Wolverhampton Sporting Community – 3

Leighton Town – 4

The Leighton Town FA Vase run of 2017/18 is certainly going to go down in supporter’s memories for a very long time to come. After the first couple of rounds were negotiated, they went on to record to narrow single goal victories, one at home, the other in Essex, and single goal leads are never comfortable. From there they went to Norfolk and surrendered a two goal lead before winning through; they then hosted a Norfolk side and were going out of the competition with two minutes of the ninety left. A late equaliser sent the game into extra time, and they won in the extra thirty minutes, this sent them to Staffordshire to face Wolverhampton Sporting CFC. Surely the Town supporters couldn’t have their nerves shredded any further?

Upon arrival at the home of ‘Wolves’, you are welcomed to Pride Park. Healthy numbers of Leighton support had travelled up from Bedfordshire, despite the 10.00am pitch inspection leaving most in limbo not knowing where they were heading for a 3.00pm football feast. As the crowd swelled the talk was of the condition of the pitch. The home committee had been working all day Friday and Saturday morning desperately trying to get it pitch perfect. Some heavy forking, buckets of sands, and some plastic sheets resulted in game on.

Centre spot

The first half will live in memory for a long time. Poor defending or great attacking, pace, mud, set pieces, strange decisions for both sides, this was a proper cup tie. Leighton scored from a corner to settle the nerves, that didn’t last long! Their hosts equalised and looked extremely dangerous every time they came forward. Leighton then went and scored two more, the first again from a corner, the second from a sublime free kick routine. 1-3, game over? No chance!

Sporting were level by the break, one a dubious penalty even ridiculed by the home supporters as a corner all day long. Full credit must be given to the home side, technically a level below their guests, it never really showed for long periods, an all-out attacking flare side that fully demonstrated why they have scored over one hundred goals this season, and are surely destined for higher level football. The second half could never match the first, Leighton got their noses in front again with yet another awkward penalty decision, Alex O’Brien despatched the spot kick into the bottom corner and Leighton then managed the remainder to set up a mouth-watering home quarter-final tie with 1874 Northwich in two weeks’ time.

Manager Scott Reynolds was again forced to reshuffle his pack from their last game, with Lewis McBride still missing with an ongoing arm injury, Dom Marsala serving the last of his three match suspension, & Bruno Brito on holiday, back came Lorrell Smith and Matt Hall, with Smith & James Hatch up front, Hall slotting into his familiar left back role alongside Tom Guiney, Dave Murphy & James Towell at right back. A strong combative midfield showed Alex O’Brien and Carl Tappin in the middle with Tom Silford patrolling the left and Lea Coulter in his now familiar right sided position.

An early shot from the hosts was comfortable for Tom Wyant in the Leighton goal, before at the opposite end a Smith cross was inches away from Coulter in the middle. Hatch then had an effort which was deflected away for a corner on nine minutes.

From the corner Leighton took the lead, swung into the near post Hatch out jumped his marker and headed the ball at goal, Wolves keeper Dale Reaney & centre half Jak Barnes fell over each other trying to clear, the ball fell to the floor and a melee ensued which resulted in Reaney falling on the ball, but the assistant on the far side waved his flag furiously to indicate the ball had crossed the line.

The lead lasted just ninety seconds when a corner saw a header from close range stopped by Hall inside the six-yard box, but quickest to react was Wolves skipper Mitch Clarke who stabbed home. Moments after their equaliser the hosts had another chance when another cross from the left found Wes Grey in front of goal but he could only lift over the top.

Despite the home side pressing after their goal, it was the away side that scored again on seventeen minutes when Hatch got on the end of another corner at the near post and headed over everyone and in. Seven minutes later saw Leighton in dream land, a two-footed challenge on Smith saw a free kick awarded just outside the Wolves box. Alex O’Brien planted into the bottom corner after a clever routine involving Coulter and Hall.

Alex O’Brien scores from free kick

Before Leighton had any time to calm down, Wolves pulled a goal back through Jon Letford, a cross into the box & effort at goal saw Wyant save, but the rebound was pounced on by the Wolves midfielder who knocked past the stranded Town keeper giving him no chance. Game on again!

The red and white shirts were now defending wave after wave of attacks, Tom Hill headed over after a superb cross found the striker on the corner of the six-yard box, then nine minutes before the break the scores were level again. A long ball knocked for a Wolves player to chase down saw Silford give chase, on the edge of the eighteen yard area the challenge was made and the ball rolled out of play. As the assistant waved for a corner, the referee pointed to the penalty spot.

Alex Moore absolutely rifled home the penalty into the top corner, and the sides went into half-time all square, with spectators barely able to comprehend what they had witnessed in the first forty-five minutes. H/T: 3-3

Of course the second half couldn’t mirror the first, but it started as if it would with the home side taking the game to their guests. A full five minutes of pressure without little end product saw the Town back line under pressure but deal with everything thrown at them. A brief respite saw Smith released away on goal from one clearance and he ran thirty yards before blazing over the crossbar from distance.

Back came Wolves, a cross into the area saw Barnes first to the ball but he could only hook wide, then on fifty-six minutes came another suspicious penalty decision, this time in Leightons favour. Coulter threaded a ball through for Smith to chase, Wolves left back Kyle Delaney gave chase and slid in to challenge winning the ball but again the official pointed to the spot.

Alex O’Brien scores winning penalty

O’Brien despatched into the bottom corner to once again give his side the lead in the tie. The goal seemed to calm the game down from that point, Wolves attacked but Leighton were comfortable and managed the game brilliantly. A series of niggly tackles, substitutions and weary legs meant the game never really threatened like it had for the first hour or so. On sixty-nine minutes the home side got down their left wing, and fizzed the ball across the goal face but no orange shirts were anywhere near forward enough to get a touch, and the ball rolled harmlessly out for a throw in.

As the tempo slowed it took until the last five minutes for Wolves to realise they only needed a goal for extra time. A ball played up to Letford saw him back to goal work some space before turning and shooting, but he dragged his effort wide of Wyant’s right hand post. Smith had a late chance for Leighton but he cleared the clubhouse as well as the crossbar, and Wolves knew it was over when in the dying seconds a ball into the Town box saw defender Phil McKerdy twist his entire body in mid-air to get his head to it, but his effort was two yards wide of the post and moments later the whistle sounded to end a truly remarkable cup tie. F/T: 3-4

Attendance: 188

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After the game Sports Shots spoke with Town manager Scott Reynolds: 
And also with Saturday’s skipper Tom Guiney: 

For match photography click here: https://flic.kr/s/aHsmaNfv2U

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