Nine-man Hednesford somehow recorded a superb FA Cup victory on penalties at West Auckland Town.
The Pitmen defended like lions for almost an hour after losing two men to red cards in this third qualifying round replay.
Kris Taylor scored the winning penalty, but that barely tells half the story as the home side belied the three-league gap with a battling performance. But full credit must go to Rob Smith’s men who defended as if their lives depended on it and might even have won the game in extra-time after the sides finished the 90 minutes at 2-2.
Matthew Moffat swept in the opening goal on 33 minutes for West Auckland, but Wayne Riley equalised when goalkeeper Jordan Nixon stood like a statue as the Hednesford forward tapped in from a yard out nine minutes later.
Moffat deflected his second goal past Dan Crane on the stroke of half-time, but Francino Francis equalised on 52 minutes to restore parity. The game changed when – just 30 seconds after hitting a post – Dave MacPherson saw red for a late tackle. Within three minutes, Ben Bailey received a second yellow for kicking the ball away.
But the home side lacked the composure to finish off the Pitmen – and when they did get through, keeper Crane was unbeatable. He saved brilliantly at the death to take the game to spot-kicks.
Crane then saved twice in the shoot-out before Taylor landed the final blow in a tie which will live long in the memory of the Hednesford fans who made the long trip.
West Auckland Town: Nixon, Pattinson (Gray 11), Gibson, Wilkinson, Galpin, Close, Vipono, Briggs, Moffat, Campbell (Richardson 45), Carr. Subs not used: Garthwaite, Hall, Banks, Atkinson.
Hednesford Town: Crane, Disney, Campion (Thompson-Brown 92), Bailey, Francis (52), MacPherson, Osborne, Durrell (Anagho-Ntamark 99), Harvey (Melbourne 69), Riley (42), Taylor. Subs not used: Woolfe, Rey,