Leighton’s FA Cup dream comes to an end

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Leighton Town were knocked out of the FA Cup in the Extra Preliminary Round on Saturday as they went down 2-1 to Northampton Sileby Rangers.

In Paul Burgess’ first official game in charge at Bell Close, Town went behind to a first half Stuart McMichael header before Lolu Onabola equalised for the home side early in the second period. Town were only level for three minutes though as Michael Byrnes poked home the winner.

Town took on the same team in the same competition last season too, and it was a naturally tentative start as both sides felt each other out in the early exchanges.

The visitors had the opening chance though, with Mark Forbes’ free kick testing Town keeper Brad Kirkwood, who palmed the ball away for a corner.

Kirkwood was again called into action when Stuart McMichael latched on to Dominic Okanu ball, only to see his low drive kept out by the Leighton stopper.

The home side should have been ahead, but Aaron McKee wasted a great chance from close range.

However it was the visitors from Northampton who made the first breakthrough of the game.

A corner was swung into an unmarked McMichael who coolly headed it home on the 25th minute.

Despite the setback the hosts were by no means out of the game, as a Jack Copson cross reached Matt Bateman, but the striker’s header lacked pace and direction to really trouble Bartle.

Then it was the visitors who could’ve extended their lead as Okanu crossed it to David Halliday who headed it from the far post that very nearly snuck in.

Leighton were making the balls into the box but there weren’t enough bodies in there at times as a free kick from McKee was very nearly met by the foot of Onabolu.

Craig McKay was the next to have a chance for Town but he couldn’t quite get enough power on it and by half time the visitors were fairly good value for their lead.

Town levelled the match eight minutes into the second half as Onabolu got the ball on the near wing and one-on-one with Bartle he sublimely chipped the Sileby ‘keeper and it was an exquisite finish.

However the match was only level for three minutes as the visitors went 2-1 up through striker Michael Byrnes.

The ball was played into him and he looked offside but the referee said he was on and the Town back line didn’t play to the whistle as he poked it off the post and into the bottom corner.

To try and get back into the game Leighton made a double substitution as Jack Stevens and Ross Hanley made way for Kai Gardener and James Towell but the visitors were unlucky not to go 3-1 up as a lovely free kick from Mark Forbes came off the underside of the bar.

Yet Leighton were very much still in the game and had a chance through Onabolu again to equalise a neat through ball was played into him but he dragged his shot just wide, but the referee had already blown for offside and wouldn’t have counted.

In the end Northampton Sileby Rangers did well to see out the rest of the game and were perhaps the better side on the day.

Leighton Town start their Spartan South Midlands league campaign tonight (Tuesday) at home to Cockfosters before returning to Bell Close next Saturday at home to Welywn Garden City.