Gamble pays off as Leighton Town march on in FA Vase

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Leighton Town boss Joe Sweeney said a massive gamble had paid off as his side booked their place in the FA Vase fourth round.

The injury-hit Reds knew they may struggle in extra-time after visiting Eastbourne Town made it 1-1 near the end, so went for broke and secured a 93rd minute winner as Archie McClelland sent the home fans wild.

“It was a moment that will live forever with everyone that was there. It was an incredible finish.” said Sweeney.

“We were on our knees so it was a gamble big time to go for it. We had to be really brave and really positive.

“We recalled Ross Adams and he set up the winning goal, but he had not played football for two months. We had to rush him back from the physio’s room as we were so short.

“The goalkeeper we’d had it on loan had to go back to his parent club so we also had to rush Brad (Kirkwood) back from the physio’s room and he was nowhere near ready to play but had to.

“So it was a real backs-against-the-wall day. But every player was ready to put their body on the line for the club and it was a really special day. Everyone was prepared to go through the mincer to get the result.”

On the game overall, Sweeney said: “Eastbourne started brilliantly and absolutely battered us for half an hour.

“We managed to get in at half-time at 0-0 and made a few changes to the formation which made a difference and Danny Webb put us one up.

“We were a bit fortunate to be ahead, but you ride your luck.

“We tried to see out the game the best we could with the players we had available, but in the 87th minute they equalised.

“At that point I was thinking it was going to be very hard to get through extra-time with the injuries and the bodies we had on the pitch.

“We made a tactical switch to put Ross Adams on the right to put more pressure on their left back and he put a lovely cross over for Archie ‘Macc’, who came running in and smashed it home in front of our delirious fans packed behind that goal and the place just absolutely erupted.”

He added: “Saturday was a fantastic occasion. We had over 450 people through the gate, which for our level is absolutely superb.

“The atmosphere was brilliant from both sets of fans. We had no problems and it was a really good non-league game enjoyed by everyone.”

Monday’s draw sent them to fellow Spartan South Midlands League Premier Division club Eynesbury Rovers on Saturday, 11th January and Sweeney said: “I think both clubs will be happy with the draw.

“Obviously we know each other as we’re in the same league.

“More importantly it means a team from our league will be in the last 16 of the biggest competition at our level of football.

“We’d have preferred a home draw, but we’ll take massive numbers up there and turn it into a home game.”

Before that, 11th-placed Leighton resume league action with a home clash with fifth-placed Biggleswade United on Saturday with Sweeney saying: “They are one of the better teams in our league and have a really good set up.

“It will be a big test. We will give the boys a couple of days off and get them back in to refocus on the league.

“It’s sometimes difficult once you’ve had such a massive high.

“But we’ve been doing really well and we’re unbeaten in 12 games in all competitions.”