Leamington FC 2 Belper Town 2 (aet)
(Belper win 4-2 on penalties)
Belper Town eventually came on top of this marathon replay to take their place in the second qualifying round of the FA Trophy, where they face either Kendal Town or Cammell Laird, writes Nigel Oldrini.
The Nailers looked in control early in the second half after going 2-0 ahead, but Evo-Stik Southern Premier Division Leamington pulled things back to 2-2, setting off a series of events that made the tie a classic to watch.
A stiff breeze and the threat of rain gave Leamington the advantage in the first half and almost immediately Richard Batchelor nearly punished the Nailers for a hesitant start with a pacy run and shot that fizzed past the far post.
But the Nailers showed up best in the opening stages and Karl Colley went close in the eighth minute when he headed a Simon Harrison corner kick just over the crossbar.
They struck first in the 11th minute after a scramble in the Brakes’ penalty forced the ball out to Andrew Siribour, who gratefully snapped up the opportunity with a rising shot into the net.
Both sides played some good football without getting too close to their respective ‘keepers, although Ashley Longstaff made Kevin Sawyer think on his feet despite the effort going wide.
Joe Magunda had a virtual free header that he put wide on 23 minutes and the Brakes had a spell of domination in which they looked half a yard quicker to the ball, although there was little end product for their efforts.
Simon Harrison gave Ashley Longstaff a shooting opportunity with a good cross close to the end of the half, but the ‘keeper made a smart save to ensure that the Nailers remained just one ahead at the break.
There was drama after less than three minutes of the second period when Simon Harrison put the Nailers in charge with a goal from just inside the penalty area, after the Brakes had struggled to clear the ball effectively.
Soon after the game had restarted, they could have really put the pressure on the home side when Ashley Longstaff ran through, only to see his shot deflected on to the outside of the post.
On that miss the game turned, because Richard Batchelor triggered a comeback with a goal out of the blue on 54 minutes when he fired through a group of players into the far corner.
Ashley Longstaff put a 61st minute chance over the bar as the Nailers tried to regain their two-goal advantage, but the momentum was swinging Leamington’s way and Stephan Morley’s tremendous effort, equally well saved by Aaron Chapman, only served to encourage the Brakes more.
Leamington’s comeback was complete when Richard Batchelor curled a 20-yard effort into the far corner although significantly, as it turned out, his goal celebration ended in an injury that prevented him taking any further part.
Having used all their substitutes the home side were down to ten men but for the remainder of the game it was they who looked more likely to get the winning goal.
But with the weather worsening, extra time loomed large and with neither team making a break through, an extra 30 minutes was inevitable.
The Nailers dominated all of the extra time period, beginning with a superbly struck free-kick from Mark Ward that Kevin Sawyer pushed around the post, then Brakes’ skipper Jamie Hood severely damaged his side’s chances when he was red carded for a two-footed tackle.
The tie was there for the taking but Belper just could not find a way through.
Greg Wright might have done better with a free header in the 100th minute but put the ball wide, and moments later the ball bounced around the Brakes’ six-yard area like a pinball, but Leamington got bodies in the way of at least five efforts on goal in the space of less than ten seconds.
It was the same story in the second period of extra time as Belper camped outside the Brakes’ penalty area but such was Leamington’s backs-to-the-wall spirit, the Nailers were rebuffed time and time again.
The tie had to go into penalties and with the rain sweeping across the New Windmill ground, Colin Marrison stepped up to convert the first penalty for Belper.
Mark Ward missed his, but with Joe Magunda and Stephan Morley putting theirs wide and Jordan Ball and Simon Harrison converting; Richard Adams stepped up to secure Belper’s passage into the next round.
Leamington FC: Sawyer, Mace, Morley, Magunda, Hood, Daly, Dodd (Johnson 64), Chilton (Husband 74), Berwick, Moore (Taylor 74), Batchelor. Unused subs: Adkins, Quirke.
Belper Town: Chapman, Pride, Wright, Marrison, Adams, Colley, Harrison, Warne, Longstaff (Ward 86), Siribour (Ball 73), Mallon (Rushbury 105). Unused subs: Simpkins, Ratcliffe.