Que Sera Sera, whatever will be will be, we're going to Wembley
The loyal Kingfisher fans travelled in number to Cheshire for this away leg of the FA Vase Semi-Final.
Like last week, things couldn't have got off to a better start with Gavin James, in for last week's matchwinner Ross Cook (hamstring), opening the scoring after 3 minutes. James earned a direct free-kick from 20 yards, which Shane Cooper-Clark hit onto the wall. The loose ball fell kindly for James who made no mistake in slotting into the bottom corner.
We were in the hunt and making a real nuisance of ourselves with a high pressing game that didn't let the home side's defence play their usual possession game from the back.
Central defenders Tom Moran and Babs Jarra had to be on their game to keep in check the dangerous number 9 Scott McGowan, who won the first corner of the game but it came to nothing.
It took 23 minutes for us to double our lead, with James getting on the end of a goalmouth scramble following a Tom Melledew corner. James' first attempt was parried but he made sure with the follow up.
This goal sent us into the ascendency with a period of supreme pressure, as we didn't let 1874 breathe. First James rose highest to knock a header into the path of Ekow Elliott whose right footed curler went just over the bar.
Soon after, Moran met an in-swinging corner but his headed effort went just wide.
Just a minute later, James latched onto a through ball to close in on goal and goalkeeper Greg Hall did well to get a touch as our number 10 attempted to round him.
With us dominating, Northwich did well to get back into the game and stem the tide of our attacks. They pushed up and camped in the final third for several minutes but failed to trouble Chris Rackley until the stroke of half time when, after our stopper made an expert save, Curtis Angell was first to successfully challenge a Northwich attacker on the rebound, before Ekow Elliott claimed the loose ball in a 50/50 challenge. The referee seemed happy enough until he noticed the linesman's flag and controversially awarded a spotkick. 1874's Scott McGowan wasn't one to look a gift horse in the mouth and duly netted the penalty.
James' hunt for a hat-trick saw another disappointment as, after Elliott threaded a neat through ball, his left footed effort went wide and into the side netting.
The half-time whistle came at a good time for us with 1874 winning a series of corners, and manager Danny Robinson's team talk must have had an impact as, for the third half of this semi-final tie, we got a goal after 3 minutes. Cooper-Clark, outstanding in both legs, received the ball on the left flank, travelled inside and thumped a shot into the net from the edge of the area.
Unsurprisingly, the home side came at us and we were content to stay compact and soak up their pressure, with Rackley making a good save from point blank after a goalmouth scramble. Michael Miller, unfazed by the occasion, calmly took a touch before clearing the ball up field.
Rackley was called upon again moments later as he smartly rushed out to snuff out the danger of a direct run from deep after a corner of ours was intercepted.
McGowan was posing a threat and wriggled his way past the usually robust Moran and into the area, with Jarra coming across to slide in and put the ball behind for a corner.
The home side's pressure told as their captain Matt Woolley rose to head home an inch perfect corner to move one goal behind on the day, and two on aggregate.
It is testament to our side's discipline and organisation that we held firm and did not succumb to the pressures of either the occasion or 1874's attacking play, as wave after wave of attack was blocked, cleared or held by messrs Rackley, Miller, Jarra, Moran and Angell, until, eventually after 6 minutes of injury time, the referee blew the full time whistle. The players and coaching staff rushed to celebrate with the vocal travelling support who could now relax into singing "Que Sera Sera" in full voice.
Our fairytale season shows no sign of letting up, with the promise of a Wembley final waiting on Sunday 20th May where we will face Northern League Division One side Stocktown Town FC. Tickets are already on sale from https://ticketingcontent.thefa.com//NLFD%202018.