Shirebrook Town and Midland Combination Premier Division front-runner’s Walsall Wood have it all to do again on Tuesday, after 120 minutes of end-to-end football in this FA Vase Second Round tie at Langwith Road on Saturday failed to find a winner.
Blighted by a mounting list of injuries, Shirebrook were without keeper Ben Hallam, midfielders Jack Barnett and James Cottingham, and strikers Antony Rowley and Dan Williams, but manager Mark Shaw was able to include new signing 18-year-old former Sheffield Wednesday apprentice Mitch Husbands in his starting eleven to bolster the home side’s attacking options for the game.
Meanwhile Wood came into the game full of confidence after losing only one of their opening fifteen league games and it was the visitors who got their noses in front after just seven minutes when Shirebrook skipper Adam Walker headed into his own net at the near post trying to clear Andre Gonzales’ corner from the left.
It was a blow for the home side who, after a bright start, had almost taken the lead themselves in the second minute from Jake Vernon’s long throw on the left, which caused all sorts of problems for Wood keeper Dale Faultless and the ball had to be cleared off the line.
However, the visitors went close again on nine minutes and Shirebrook keeper Gareth Briggs had to be at his best at the near post to deny Jonny Owen with a strike from twelve yards on the right.
Nevertheless, Shirebrook continued to look strong going forward and Jason Bradley at the far post only just missed getting a foot to Jordan Lemon’s ball across the Wood box from the left on 14 minutes.
Goals were coming and two minutes later Vernon grabbed himself the first of a double, firing into the net from 14 yards on the right after Bradley headed the ball onto him from Tom Rowbotham’s high ball onto the edge of the Wood box.
And Vernon added a second seven minutes later; his strike from ten yards at the far post giving the home side the lead after the ball came to him across the box from the right.
Shirebrook had seized control and ought to have killed the game off, but just after the half-hour chances for a third goal went a-begging as first Husbands almost crowned his debut, but instead hit the crossbar, before Bradley put the ball over as the visitors struggled to clear their lines in the play that followed.
Still, the home side looked comfortable going into the interval with a 2-1 lead, but the visitors’ came out all fired up for the second half and their confidence grew significantly on the hour after Shirebrook over-elaborated on the edge of their own box and the ball fell kindly for Ahmet Bilgimer off a blocked clearance, and he slid the ball into the net from twelve yards to level the scores, and Wood were on top for the rest of the half from then on.
And Shirebrook had keeper Briggs to thank for keeping them in the game after twice denying Bilgimer in the next few minutes with fine blocking saves, after he had looked certain to score.
Wood kept the pressure on and Owen headed onto the top of the Shirebrook crossbar with 12 minutes to go, before home defender Rob Ludlam cleared Lewis Taylor-Boyce’s 18-yard shot off the line with just five minutes of normal time remaining.
It had been a great effort by Shirebrook to take the tie to extra time, but Corey Currithers got the extra half-hour off to the worst possible start from the home side’s points of view, when he fired Wood into the lead with just three minutes of the additional thirty gone. And it was the best goal of the game, a stunning shot from 22 yards on the right that went high into the net off the inside of the near upright.
At that moment it looked like there would only be one winner, and the visitors really should have put the result beyond any doubt over the next few minutes, but Shirebrook keeper Briggs was brave and quickly off his line to narrow the angles and deny Wood twice, the last of those a gilt-edged one-on-one with Bilgimer who put his shot wide of the right hand post from 16 yards with three minutes of the first half of extra-time to go.
Lifted by all that, the home side battled back in the second half of extra-time and substitute Rob Cam levelled the scores again with ten minutes to go, fellow substitute Kyle Jordan neatly slipping the ball between two of the visitors’ defenders on the edge of their own box for Cam to run onto and force the replay with the final goal of the game.
Shirebrook still had work to do, though, and Bilgimer went close again five minutes later, although Ludlam very nearly made the replay unnecessary with a 22-yard shot at the far post on the right from Rowbotham’s cross from the left, but Wood keeper Faultless proved to be equal to the effort right on the final whistle.
Manager Mark Shaw said after the game: “It was a game of two halves and I thought we were superb in the first half, probably too good at times.”
“We didn’t save anything for the second half and we stopped doing what we had been doing.”
“In the first half we played some good stuff in the right areas and made sure that we were quite clinical and clever around their goal. We also made sure that we were strong and we created some good chances, and I think we looked an utter threat.”
“And then second half you have to give credit to Walsall. They came out and had a go at us, and they made things hard for us. They got their foot on the pedal and pinned us back. We couldn’t get out and they created a lot of good chances.”
“Looking back on the first half and second half, I’d say a draw was just about the right result.”
“But great character shown by our players in the second half of extra time. At 3-2 down they looked out, but they clawed it back and got a draw, although it’s going to be a difficult replay now, to go there midweek and try and get through.
“I was pleased with some of what happened today, but we’ve got to play for 90 minutes,” Shaw said, adding: “We can’t afford to play for just one half.”
Shirebrook Town travel to Walsall Wood on Tuesday for the replay. Kick-off is at 7.45pm and the tie has to be decided on the night - with the use of extra-time again, plus penalties if required.
Shirebrook then return to their league programme next Saturday with the visit of near-neighbours Teversal for a 3 o’clock kick-off at Langwith Road.
Shirebrook Town: Briggs, Ludlam, Rowbotham, Walker, Timons, Cardwell, Mullen (Thompson 87), Lemon, Husbands, Bradley (Jordan 93), Vernon (Cam 82). Subs not used: Gee, Booth.
Walsall Wood: Faultless, Currithers, Evans (Deakin 100), Boothe, Stretton, Owen, Bilgimer, Hawkins, Taylor-Boyce (Murray 118), Aiton, Gonzales. Subs not used: Cooper, Howard, Forrest.
Referee: Robert Sherwood (West Yorkshire)