Shirebrook Town progressed to the Third Round of the League Cup after beating NCEL Division One rivals Knaresborough Town at Manse Lane on Tuesday night, thanks in no small part to a Danny Williams hat-trick, plus some excellent Shirebrook goalkeeping.
But the 3-1 away win was soured by an unsavoury injury-time incident that saw Shirebrook midfielder Carlos Forbes get his marching orders following a clash with Knaresborough’s Paul Stansfield, and that made the game memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Shirebrook included new signing Adam Billard, a goalkeeper who joined the Langwith Road club just hours before the game from NCEL Premier Division side Parkgate. Defender Grant Hemsley was given a start for the first time, whilst midfielder Ian Gee and striker Kyle Jordan were also included in the starting eleven.
And there was very little to separate the sides early in the game, but Williams gave Shirebrook the edge when he latched onto Hemsley’s superb forward pass, before sliding the ball past Knaresborough keeper Jack Rushworth to give the visitors the lead with the first of his three goals, almost on the half-hour.
Then with a couple of minutes of the half remaining, Forbes had Rushworth scrambling back to keep his 25-yard lob out of the net, although there was nothing the keeper could do from Tom Rowbotham’s corner that followed when Williams added a second with an unstoppable strike from 18 yards on the right, where he had been waiting to pick up any bits.
So Shirebrook took a comfortable-looking 2-0 lead into the interval and they added to their total just a minute after the start of the second half when they broke quickly on the counter-attack, three on two.
Jordan slid the ball right to Williams in space and, advancing unchallenged into the Knaresborough box, he made no mistake with just keeper Rushworth to beat, with his third goal of the game from 16 yards.
It all looked too easy for the visitors, but the home side had other ideas and a minute later David Thomas was teeing the ball up on the penalty spot at the other end after Brandon Cardwell was adjudged to have brought down Stansfield in the Shirebrook box.
But Thomas blasted the ball over the crossbar, although that just seemed to act as a spur for the Knaresborough side and from then on they threw everything they had at Shirebrook in an effort to get back into the game.
Shirebrook keeper Billard marked his debut with a fine save from Stephen Bromley a minute later, but Bromley wasn’t to be denied for much longer and three minutes after that he reduced Knaresborough’s deficit by putting the ball into the net at the far post when it fell loose from Billard’s save, off Stansfield’s shot from 18 yards on the left.
And that stoked the home fires again, although Shirebrook should have regained their three goal margin just before the hour when another swift counter-attack caught the home side short at the back, but Jordan fired well wide after Williams picked him out unmarked at the far post with a pass across the box from the right.
It was mostly all Knaresborough after that, but Shirebrook somehow survived, even into injury-time when Billard pulled off a second great save of the game, this time to deny Paul Eagling 14 yards from goal, off Bromley’s through-ball, and then it looked to be all over bar the shouting.
But, five minutes into time added-on, all hell suddenly broke loose after Forbes reacted badly to Stansfield’s high challenge. And his dismissal, when things had calmed down again, was just about the final action of the game.
Shirebrook manager Mark Shaw said after the game: “I thought we played some good football in the first half and we dominated the game, and it looked like it was going to be the same kind of thing at the beginning of the second half when we went 3-0 up.”
“But then we seemed to press the self-destruct button, rather than just relaxing and enjoying it. We allowed Knaresborough back into the game and they’ve had a good go at us in the second half, and it probably should have been a bit closer than it was in the end.”
“But we’ve defended alright. We rode our luck when we needed to, and we had a couple of scoring chances ourselves. But a 3-1 win – we’d take that any day of the week. I’m just happy we’re through to the next round, and to see Dan Williams get his name back on the scoresheet.”
Knaresborough Town: Rushworth, Wilson, Radcliffe (Heath 68), Thomas, Atkinson, Stansfield, Clare, Clayton, Eagling (Duerden 82), Bromley, Bradley. Subs not used: Donnelly
Shirebrook Town: Billard, Ludlam (Walker 77), Rowbotham, Gee, Hemsley, Cardwell, Lemon, Forbes, Williams, Husbands (Mullen 82), Jordan (Vernon 68). Subs not used: S Shuttleworth, Shaw.
Referee: Paul Tomes (South Yorkshire)