Shirebrook Town stunned hosts Heanor Town with a goal early in the game and a second half comeback to book themselves a place in the Second Round Proper of the FA Vase in a month’s time against Midland Combination Premier Division side Walsall Wood.
And it was no more than the visitors deserved for their performance against their one-level higher opponents in this replay at The Town Ground on Wednesday night.
Shirebrook were without midfielder Sam Eckhardt (cup tied), striker Dan Williams (injured) and defender Tom Rowbotham (injured), whilst striker and leading goal-scorer Nathan Beneger returned to Heanor’s side after being unavailable for the 1-1 draw at Langwith Road four days before.
And the home side began brightly, but the visitors looked sharp up front and they grabbed a precious early lead when Jason Bradley netted from eight yards out on seven minutes, after being put clear by Jake Vernon off Jack Barnett’s ball over the top from midfield.
Bradley went close once more on 15 minutes, but Heanor grew into the game again and, just after the half-hour, Jason Foster crossed from the right and Benger levelled the scores with a strike from the edge of the box that beat Shirebrook keeper Ben Hallam low to his right.
And that’s how the scores remained going into half-time, but Heanor seized the advantage nine minutes after the restart when Benger put a sublime pass through that caught Shirebrook flat-footed and Jordan Hall ran clear to slide the ball wide of Hallam to give the home side a 2-1 lead.
For a very short time after that Heanor looked to be favourites to take the tie, but all that changed in a three minute spell as Shirebrook took control when Jordan Lemon equalised on the hour and Vernon fired them in front for the second time in the game three minutes later.
Lemon’s goal was a strike from 25 yards on the left after a swift move on the good surface by the visitors down that flank, whilst Vernon volleyed the goal of the game from 16 yards after Bradley laid the ball off from Tom Mullen’s cross from deep on the left.
And that quietened the home support for a while, and Shirebrook continued to press, doubling their advantage with thirteen minutes to go when Barnett whipped the ball in from the right, which Bradley flicked on with his head at the near post and Heanor central defender Nico Degirolamo, who was only two or three yards behind Bradley, deflected into his own net to give the visitors a 4-2 lead.
Heanor looked to salvage something after that and they went close to cutting the deficit right on the stroke of full-time with Dwayne Whiley’s looping header off substitute Ian Clarke’s free-kick from the left that had Shirebrook keeper Hallam stretching to keep the ball from going in under the crossbar.
After the game, Shirebrook manager Mark Shaw said: “I’m very happy, especially the second half when we controlled the game, although I wasn’t so happy with the first half and I told our players at half time that it wasn’t good enough.”
“We’ve got to be a team that goes and stamps our authority on every game. We can’t just wait for the opposition to start playing before we go and try and turn it around, and I told the players at half time they have to be better than that, and to be better with and without the ball.”
“I’ve got a lot of faith in those young men and they’ve got a lot to give, but it needed them to be losing before they came out of their shells. We’ve really only played for the last 35 minutes, but we haven’t got beat and we played some good football in the end, and also scored some great goals.”
“I’m extremely happy for the players and for the supporters, and I’m happy that we’ve got through in such an important game.”
Shirebrook return to their league programme on Saturday when they travel to Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire for a 3 o’clock kick-off against improving bottom side Appleby Frodingham.
Heanor Town: Lillie, Foster (Stevenson 86), Austin, Whiley, Holmes, Degirolamo, Webster, Slater (Clarke 30), Benger, Hall, Frost (Grayson 67). Subs not used: Wells, Roulston.
Shirebrook Town: Hallam, Ludlam, L Jackson, Walker, Timons, Norwood, Barnett, Lemon (Gee 72), Mullen, Bradley (Jordan 86), Vernon (Rowley 78). Subs not used: Booth, Briggs.
Referee: Harry Hawkins (Nottinghamshire)