History Boys take us through
By Andrew Marsh
A Sean Hunter brace and a goal from Curtly Martin-Wyatt saw us fight back twice to beat ten-man Shildon in this epic cup replay.
Alex Low returned to the first eleven, allowing Lee Turner to play a more familiar forward role. Also moving back to a familiar position was Matthew Wilkinson who returned to right-back to replace injured captain James Beaston.
Garforth's first chance arrived three minutes in when Mark Simpson skied over the bar when getting on the end of Joe Colley's cross-cum-shot which had struck the inside of the far post. Simpson was, in any case, ruled offside.
The visitors replied only a minute later when Chay Liddle's deflected strike played in Zak Atkinson, but Wells came out to save at his feet.
After losing captain James Beaston on Saturday, there was further bad luck on the injury front on eight minutes when Adam Porritt had to be replaced after inadvertently receiving a whack in the eye when challenging for a header. Jack Slinn was his replacement.
The Town stopper was called into action again on 13 mins, keeping out a fierce strike from Atkinson. Moments later Lee Turner put a 20-yard effort over the crossbar after Simpson got on the end of a ball over the top. On 15 mins Daniel Craggs curled a free-kick into the side netting after allegedly being fouled by Matthew Wilkinson just outside the area.
On 18 mins the Railwaymen were down to ten men when Kurt Matthews was given a straight red for a bad challenge on Wilkinson near the dugouts.
Simpson saw a shot blocked after getting on the end of Sean Hunter's cross on 29 mins, and there was controversy for the former seconds later when he looked to have been taken down in the box, but referee Lee Hible instead booked him for diving.
Garforth struggled initially to make the extra man count against their physical opponents and after two hours of football without a goal, the visitors took the lead on 34 mins when a half clearance came straight to Dale Mulligan who sidefooted beyond Wells. We did a little better in the final few minutes of the half; Simpson heading narrowly off target at the back post a good delivery from Turner.
Two minutes after the break Wells denied Nathan Steel at the near post after the forward had worked his way in from the left. On 51 mins, Hunter got on the end of a cross-field pass to hook the ball over Shildon keeper Shaun Newbrook, but was equalled by a last ditch block from a Shildon defender. Steel for the away side came close again on 55 mins when beating his man inside the box, but could only drag his shot wide. Wells pushed away from goal a Craggs free-kick three mins later, the ball thankfully cleared to safety.
On 58 mins The Miners levelled up the tie when Hunter got on the end of a defence splitting pass from Turner to fire home past Newbrook. Sadly parity was to last all of two minutes as the still-dangerous visitors hit back. Atkinson rose highest to head home an inswinging corner kick.
Two goals in two minutes however swung the pendulum back in Town's favour, and it was a lead that wouldn't be relinquished. Another superb ball forward, this time from Colley, found Hunter who duly responded with a well taken strike into the far corner. Scorer then turned provider when Hunter got between defenders to play in substitute Curtly Martin-Wyatt who steered the ball beyond Newbrook and into the net.
There was still work to do at the back though, as our Northern League opponents suddenly found themselves chasing the game. Wells produced a great save to keep out Atkinson's header, then goalscorer Mulligan headed against the far post when getting on the end of the resulting corner kick.
Martin-Wyatt almost had his second of the game on 72 mins when his curling strike went just wide of the upright. There were no further chances for either side, and Rob Hunter's men were able to celebrate a first ever victory over our opponents and progress from the Extra Preliminary Round for a second season in a row. An excellent team performance to pull out of the bag a victory which for a time seemed to be heading out of our grasp.
Town now host in the Preliminary Round Bet Victor North West Division side Colne FC on Saturday 24th August, which replaces our league match at home to Liversedge. Before all that however, we have the no-small matter of a local derby against promotion-chasers Yorkshire Amateur this Saturday (kick-off 3pm).