By Nigel West
Lincolnshire FA Junior Cup
Spilsby Town 1
Skegness Town 3
Boston League outfit Spilsby Town were within three minutes of causing a county cup upset by knocking neighbours Skegness Town out of the competition.
The possession stats would have indicated a game dominated by the Lilywhites but until Josh Bartlett’s 87th minute equaliser, Spilsby were heading for the next round.
They had parked the bus after edging in front in the 54th minute, but deserved great credit for the way they blocked the seasiders’ progress.
Home keeper Adam Marsh had an inspired game between the sticks and his defenders showed incredible determination and resilience, throwing themselves in front of every Skegness shot.
They worked their socks off to blunt their Lincolnshire League neighbours and then took the lead with a Tom Watson header.
A corner from the Spilsby left was met at the near post by the unmarked Watson who darted his header into the top corner of the net.
The goal came a couple of minutes after Spilsby’s number four Jordan Turner was taken to hospital by ambulance following a clash of heads with a teammate.
The injury delayed the match for about an hour and maybe the seasiders were distracted, allowing Watson so much room in their penalty area to give the home side the lead.
And maybe the injury to their teammate served to fuel Spilsby’s determination to hold on to their one-goal advantage.
Central defender Watson turned from goal-getter to blocker and when he and his Magpies were breached, they saw stopper Marsh fling himself across his goal to keep the lead intact. In the first half he had pulled off a string of great saves to deny Jordan Smith, Wade Hurst and Luke Rayner-Mistry.
When the visitors did get the ball in the net 10 minutes before the interval it was ruled out because Courtney Warren had strayed offside.
After the break normal service was soon resumed with Marsh stretching to push efforts from Matt Veall and Jordan Smith wide of the target.
But then came the shock of going behind to Watson’s header.
The Lilywhites continued to press. The quick feet of Hurst, the tight control of Rayner-Mistry and the guile of Smith would surely combine to rescue the visitors.
It certainly created chances, but as the game wore on the Spilsby resolve appeared to grow stronger, spurred on by the hard work of former Lilywhites Dan Cobb and Liam Papworth.
It looked as though the seasiders were heading out of the competition, but then another piece of magic from Rayner-Mistry unlocked the Spilsby defence, releasing Miles Chamberlain to the by-line. His cross was met by Bartlett, who glanced his header into the bottom corner to rescue the seasiders.
The relief was plain to see. The pain on the faces of the Spilsby players was also understandable. They had given their all to protect their slender lead and now they faced an extra 30 minutes.
They dug deep, but cracks started to appear and it came as no surprise when Hurst centred for substitute Kurt Crossley to head home at the back post in the 97th minute.
Spilsby had to commit more men forward in a bid to force a penalty shoot out, but it was at the other end that the result was settled. Rayner-Mistry deservedly scored by curling a shot into the top corner from 20 yards with three minutes left on the clock.
Lilywhites boss Nick Chapman was satisfied with the overall performance. “We had to dig deep because we knew they would come at us and compete for every 50-50 ball,” he said. “But I was pleased with some of the football we played and the way we controlled the game.”
Skegness Town: Michael Emery, Warren Courtney, Jamie Epton, Matt Veall, Miles Chamberlain, Liam Parker, Wade Hurst, Ben Davison, Jordan Smith, Luke Rayner-Mistry, McCauley Parker, Josh Bartlett, Kurt Crossley, Will Britton, Michael Hardy.
On Saturday, Skegness travel to CGB Humbertherm in Group B of the Supplementary Cup.