Town survive Wolves scare to book quarter final spot

Leighton Town celebrate their win over Wolves'Pic: ThreeFiveThree Photography
Leighton Town celebrate their win over Wolves'Pic: ThreeFiveThree Photography

Leighton Town needed to be at their best in the second half to put aside a resilient Wolverhampton Sporting Club and book their spot in the FA Vase quarter finals.

Town were 3-1 up in the first half, thanks to a James Hatch brace and another from Alex O’Brien, before Wolves, who have scored 120 goals in all competitions this season, fought back to level things at the interval.

Manager Scott Reynolds said his side were terrible in the opening 45 minutes but were back on form in the second half, wrapping up the victory when O’Brien bagged his second goal of the game, setting up a home quarter final against 1874 Northwich on Saturday February 24.

Looking at the Pride Park surface, many felt the game would have been called off had it not gone the same way seven days previous.

Reynolds was forced into another reshuffle of his pack, with Dom Marsala,Lewis McBride and Bruno Brito all missing.

Wolves were the lowest ranked team left in the competition at the fifth round stage, but having scored 10 goals in the week were full of confidence heading into the clash. But that confidence was dented when Town went ahead after just nine minutes, with James Hatch’s header deemed to have crossed the line from a corner.

The lead would last less than two minutes though when a similar corner was pitched into the danger zone, and despite Matt Hall getting something on it, Wolves skipper Mitch Clarke was on hand to poke hole the equaliser.

Wes Grey then had a wonderful chance to fire Wolves into the lead but he fluffed his lines and sent the ball high over the crossbar.

Leighton went into the game on the back of nine consecutive wins, so were keen not to let their run slip and were soon back in front.

This time, there were no questions over Hatch’s header as he rose highest once more to power the ball into the net on 17 minutes.

Seven minutes later, Leighton would have felt they were high and dry when they made it 3-1. A nasty challenge on Lorrell Smith saw a free kick awarded on the edge of the box, and a clever routine involving Lea Coulter and Hall allowed O’Brien to send the ball low into the bottom corner.

But with barely a minute to settle themselves, Wolves pulled one back when Jon Letford got a second bite of the cherry after Tom Wyant saved his initial effort, but could only parry it back into Letford’s path.

With the wind in their sails now, Wolves were surging forwards and nearly drew level when Tom Hill headed over from close range.

A frantic 36 minutes though saw Wolves equalise from the penalty spot.

Chasing a long ball over the top, Tom Silford’s sliding challenge in the box was adjudged to have been a foul by the referee, despite his assistant flagging for a corner.

Up stepped Alex Moore who fired home the spot kick to equalise and send the teams in level at the half time interval.

Reynolds issued his side some stern words at half time, not his usual methods by his own admission, but it was the home side who had the better of the early second half exchanges.

A full five minutes of pressure without little end product saw the Town back line under pressure but deal with everything thrown at them. A brief respite saw Smith released away on goal from one clearance and he ran thirty yards before blazing over the crossbar from distance.

Back came Wolves, a cross into the area saw Barnes first to the ball but he could only hook wide, then on 56minutes came another suspicious penalty decision, this time in Leighton’s favour.

Coulter threaded a ball through for Smith to chase, Wolves left back Kyle Delaney gave chase and slid in to challenge winning the ball but again the official pointed to the spot.

O’Brien despatched into the bottom corner to once again give his side the lead in the tie.

The goal seemed to calm the game down from that point, Wolves attacked but Leighton were comfortable and managed the game brilliantly.

A series of niggly tackles, substitutions and weary legs meant the game never really threatened like it had for the first hour or so.

On 69 minutes the home side got down their left wing, and fizzed the ball across the goal face but no orange shirts were anywhere near forward enough to get a touch, and the ball rolled harmlessly out for a throw in.

As the tempo slowed it took until the last five minutes for Wolves to realise they only needed a goal for extra time.

A ball played up to Letford saw him back to goal work some space before turning and shooting, but he dragged his effort wide of Wyant’s right hand post.

Smith had a late chance for Leighton but he cleared the clubhouse as well as the crossbar, and Wolves knew it was over when in the dying seconds a ball into the Town box saw defender Phil McKerdy twist his entire body in mid-air to get his head to it, but his effort was two yards wide of the post and moments later the whistle sounded to end a truly remarkable cup tie.

“We weren’t good enough in the first half by our standards, but we showed our mettle in the second half,” said Leighton skipper Tom Guiney.

“We don’t know when we’re beaten. We’ve got a never say die attitude.

“We have an important league game next Saturday then we’ll turn our attentions to the quarter final.

“(The pitch) was a bit of a bog, but we knew it would be like this. There were questions whether it would be on, and I think it would have been called off had it not been postponed last week, but we were delighted to play and win.”