Skegness Town did just enough to progress to Round Four of the Lincolnshire FA Junior Cup when they came up against Scunthorpe League side Limestone Rangers.
Limestone, who are based at the North Lincolnshire farming village of Willoughton, were no strangers to Burgh Road, having previously played in the Lincolnshire League, winning the championship in 1999.
And they provided a stern test for the seasiders after gifting them an early lead.
Indeed, the way they finished this tie showed they would have little trouble in making the step up again.
But for now they play their football in the TSW Printers Scunthorpe League and currently lie third.
At Skegness, on a perfect surface, they began brightly, but found themselves a goal down after just five minutes. Jack Cotton caused panic in the visitors’ penalty box when he connected with a corner from the left. As two defenders dithered over who should clear the loose ball, Michael Hardy pounced to smash home past Rangers keeper Dale Coy.
The goal settled the home side’s nerves, but, despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession for the next 20 minutes, they were unable to add to their tally.
Rangers deserve some credit for making it difficult for the Lilywhites, but sloppy play from the home side hindered their progress. The seasiders were guilty of giving the ball away cheaply and lowering the tempo of their play.
Gradually Rangers took advantage to share the possession, but Cotton and skipper Liam Parker swept up at the back to stop them converting this into an equaliser.
As half time approached the Lilywhites doubled their lead. A corner from the right was met by Cotton whose header found the back of the net.
Skegness started the second period much sharper and Michael Gardner almost increased their lead in the 50th minute when his shot was saved by Coy. Rangers’ player-manager Dave Betts cleared Gardner’s follow-up effort off the line.
Five minutes later there was drama at the other end when Gareth Leaning’s speculative effort from just inside the Skegness half almost caught out keeper Ricky Lovelace. The Lilywhites’ stopper scrambled back to tip the ball onto the cross bar.
The incident gave Rangers renewed hope, but it was noticeable that their best opportunities came from Skegness corners. At least three times the seasiders were found wanting at the back when the setplays broke down and Lovelace had to be on his toes to retain the two-goal cushion.
His best save came in the 72nd minute when he dived to his left to palm away Leaning’s 30-yard strike. It was a warning, but a warning the home side failed to heed.
Three minutes later Gardner released Daniel Cobb, who beat the offside trap, only to be denied by Coy’s right boot in the one-on-one.
But it was Lovelace who was the busier keeper in the later stages. He got his body behind a full-bloodied shot from Phillip Spindley and then tipped a Leaning free kick over his cross bar.
There was still eight minutes left when he was finally beaten. McCauley Parker failed to clear the danger and Biddle fired past a furious Lovelace from 12 yards.
Rangers continued to look for an equaliser to send the game into extra time, but the composure of Parker and Cotton at the heart of the Skegness defence saw them home.
Town boss Nick Chapman was pleased that his side had gone through to the last 16 of the competition, but admitted performances would need to improve if they were going to challenge for honours this season.
“The players know that that level of performance was not good enough and we’ll need to put that right, starting at home to Nettleham on Saturday.”
Skegness Town: Richard Lovelace, Jamie Epton, McCauley Parker, Michael Hardy, Jack Cotton, LIam Parker, Daniel Cobb, Michael Armstrong, Liam Papworth, Michael Gardner, Rocky Rawlings, Ben Davison, Michael Marinov, Mark Russell.
Limestone Rangers: Dale Coy, Daniel Wood, David Betts, Brett Canty, Scott Hodson, Paul Baker, Luke Moore, Gareth Leaning, Stephen Biddle, Peter Neal, Phillip Spindley, Tom Reilly, Nathan Giles.
Nettleham are the visitors to Burgh Road for a league game on Saturday (kick-off 2pm). They were knocked out of the County Cup on penalties at North Somercotes United last weekend and held the Lilywhites to a draw at Mulsanne Park earlier this season.