The early efforts on goal came from the Scholars, and Russ Griffiths’ reflexes were tested in the opening 15 minutes by two goal-bound efforts that he had to turn over his crossbar. The Bucks efforts to get a foothold in the sodden conditions weren’t helped by an injury to Brendon Daniels; the left-sided player was forced from the field with injury after just a quarter of an hour, a disconsolate Daniels replaced by Jack Byrne.
Chasetown continued to show a better mastery of the conditions, the nearest the Bucks came to threatening the goal being a James Hardy free-kick that travelled wide. Just when it looked as though the initial storm had been weathered, the Bucks conceded a goal, seconds before the half-time interval. Lee Vaughan attempted to clear his lines when Shane Sutton’s header failed to, but referee Sam Mulhall ruled that Vaughan had handled the bouncing ball in his attempts to control it.
There was little chance that Joey Butlin, the Chasetown centre-forward, was going to let anyone else take the free-kick, and from just over 20 yards he produced the game’s first bit of real quality, beating the defensive wall and Griffiths’ dive to plant the ball inside the keeper’s right post to open the scoring.
Buoyed by an almost uniquely partisan home support in a crowd of 369, the Step 4 Scholars sensed an upset against their opponents from Step 2, but after 55 minutes the Bucks were handed some assistance in their battle with the challenging circumstances. Chasetown defender Ryan Wynter had already been booked in the opening 45 minutes, and when he made contact with Bucks striker Jason Oswell as the forward got in behind the home rearguard the referee deemed it a second bookable offence. Wynter took his time to leave the field, pleading his case to anyone who would listen, but that moment helped to turn the tide.
With an extra bit of space to work in, Cowan’s side started to penetrate more, although home keeper Elias Rouse still hadn’t been tested anywhere near frequently enough. Chasetown attacks started to be less frequent, although Jack Langston blazed over from distance.
Jordan Davies was introduced in place of Oswell in a tactical move and Courtney Meppen-Walter departed with an injury as the Bucks’ urgency increased. Davies brought a low save from Rouse and Adam Walker twice had efforts go wide of the goal as the Bucks started to rain on Chasetown’s parade. It wasn’t one-way traffic, and Griffiths saved well to deny Liam Kirton’s sharp near-post shot, but with under ten minutes on the clock time wasn’t on the Bucks side. Fortunately, James Hardy was, and on 83 minutes the creative midfielder, a real will-o-the-wisp, on the left of the penalty area and arrowed a terrific finish high into the nearside top corner to level the scores.
Within 90 seconds the Bucks almost turned the game around, Aaron Williams striking the crossbar with a shot, but there were to be no further goals, and a penalty shoot-out would decide which team progressed.
With the rain still incessant, each side slotted home four penalty kicks each before Chasetown’s Oliver Hayward lost his technique under pressure and cleared the crossbar. Davies, the livewire Bucks substitute, kept his, and hit the decisive penalty high into the roof of the net to secure a place in the next round.
Bucks: Griffiths, Streete, Sutton, Meppen-Walter (McHale 73), Vaughan, Daniels (Byrne 16), Cowans, Walker, Hardy, Williams, Oswell (Davies 68).
Unused substitutes: Rawlins, White, Lilly, Barnes-Homer.
Cautioned: Byrne, Cowans, Vaughan.
Scorer: Hardy (83).
Chasetown: Rouse, Melbourne, Evans, Slater, Wynter, Hayward, Kirton (Lund 78), Langston, Butlin, O’Callaghan, Curtis (Taylor 66).
Unused substitutes: Riley-Stewart, Haddaway, Cooke.
Scorer: Butlin (45)
Referee: Sam Mulhall
Assistants: Andrew Ellis, Brendan Scaife