FA Cup Third Qualifying Round Replay
Buxton FC 2, Hednesford Town 1 (aet, 1-1 after 90 minutes)
BUXTON secured themselves a meeting with Blue Square North big-guns Guiseley after knocking out Hednesford Town in a thrilling roller-coaster ride of an FA Cup tie.
Despite squandering a second-half lead during Wednesday evenings’s bruising Third Qualifying Round replay, and suffering the setback of having a player sent off early in extra-time, the Bucks pulled out all the stops to keep alive their dream of a first appearance in the First Round Proper for 50 years.
The decisive goal in this topsy-turvy match was scored from the penalty spot by Lee Morris in the 101st minute, after Hednesford keeper Dan Crane, who up until that point had kept his side in the tie with some fantastic saves, clumsily brought down substitute Michael Towey in the area.
Yet few would have foretold the drama that lay ahead after the game started with a scrappy opening 45-minutes, which produced few clear-cut goalscoring opportunities for the 300 spectators at the Silverlands.
The Pitmen’s best goalscoring opportunity of the half fell to Neil Harvey, whose glancing header from a set-piece was deflected wide by Ben Bailey.
Crane, after punching clear a free-kick in the opening ten minutes, was rarely troubled, although Morris got within inches of connecting with a free header from a Kevin Sandwith corner-kick, and then fluffed a half-chance in front of goal after a good ball into the box by Neil Stevens.
Bucks boss Martin McIntosh was forced into making his first change on the stroke of half-time as the injured Kyle Nix was substituted for Sam Duncum, and after the break it was the visitors who were the quickest out of the blocks, with Ian Deakin having to be alert to deny Aaron Rey and James Osborne, and then diving low to his right to push a 20-yard free-kick around the post.
But from that moment on, the momentum swung emphatically in Buxton’s favour as they put on a breath-taking display of attacking football which culminated in the home side’s opening goal - only after some heroics from the Pitmen’s custodian.
After diving to save a Mark Reed header from a Marc Roberts long throw, Crane was equal to the Buxton talisman’s volley seconds later and then blocked a thundering shot by the striker point-blank.
But this only delayed the inevitable, and when a quick break by Morris produced a fizzing cross across the face of goal, Reed was there to finish at the far post to give Buxton a deserved 70th-minute lead.
This, however, was short-lived as Hednesford equalised four minutes later. After pulling off a great block to deny Elliott Durrell, there was little Deakin could do when Rey’s scuffed effort was deflected past the wrong-footed keeper by captain Dave MacPherson.
With the score still level after 180 minutes of football, the game entered extra time, and Buxton made the worst possible start when their captain Steve Istead was dismissed after receiving his second yellow card. Reed was quickly sacrificed for Michael Towey, and it was the midfielder’s fresh legs and injection of pace that ultimately played a part in the winning goal.
After Morris had tucked away the penalty, Deakin produced another block to deny Hednesford substitute Michael Lennon, while at the other end a pacy Duncum run down the left almost produced a third goal but his cross couldn’t find the Bucks’ lone frontman.
Bailey saw red late on for the visitors following a second bookable offence, as Buxton saw out the remaining minutes comfortably. They will now travel to face Guiseley in the Fourth Qualifying Round on Saturday October 20 (kick-off 3pm).
Buxton: Deakin, Black, Sandwith, Istead (c), Haggerty (Keane, 91), Roberts, Stevens, Nix (Duncum, 41), Reed (Towey, 97), Morris, Maxfield. Subs not used: Bradbury, Lugsden. Attendance: 302.