Cottesmore AFC claim second higher level scalp after beating Harrowby United in FA Vase
Cottesmore produced one of the most memorable moments in their 78-year history as the Rutland club's record-breaking FA Vase run continued in dramatic fashion on Saturday.
A 90th minute Colton Cropper penalty ensured they ran out 2-1 winners over higher level Harrowby United in the second qualifying round tie and maintain their momentous run in their first-ever season in the national competition.
They had to defy the double setback of losing outstanding midfield maestro Danny Seals -who was sent off with seven minutes remaining after collecting a second caution - and then conceding a contentious equaliser in the 86th minute.
Cottesmore could also have wrapped the game up a minute before Seals' sending off when the prolific Tom Pope burst clear only to be the denied by a smart save from Arrows goalkeeper Oluyinka Abebowale.
Pope had earlier seen hopes of a second Cottesmore goal dashed when his effort was disallowed as they looked to add to Andre Fontoura's 30th minute opener.
Their never-say-die attitude though shone through in the end which left manager Rich Giblin - who admitted he couldn't watch Cropper's last-gasp spot kick - to pile the praise on his players.
Giblin said: "I'm absolutely delighted and it's the manner of the win as well.
"We kept them from playing their football which was exactly how we wanted to set up and how we came into the game.
"The goal in the first half helped to settle us down and we played some good football after that.
"We had a mad five minutes near the end where Danny got his second yellow which was a real shame because I thought he was magnificent as was Harry Sabberton alongside him and to then concede late on in what I'm led to believe was a hand-ball.
"But that shows what kind of lads we've got at this football club. We picked ourselves up and, instead of capitulating which we could have done, we've gone down the other end to get a penalty and Colton has had the composure to stick it in the net.
"We're only a small club, but we've got some really good lads here and this was testament to them.
"Myself and Bruce Poynter can do as much as we can but, as soon as they go onto the pitch, it's down to them. They listened to what we said and the game-plan worked perfectly.
"It's got to up there in one of the best days ever for the club. We hadn't entered the FA Vase before let alone got through to the first round proper.
"It's all part of the bigger picture for the club and the way it has progressed over the last couple of seasons.
"There is a lot of people who have played a part in this. It's not just the 11 who were out there, it's the chairman and ground-staff and everybody else.
"We do everything together as a club and days like this are a reward for it."
Both sides created half chances in the opening exchanges with Tom Figura finding himself well-placed for the hosts only to shoot straight at Jonny Hotson while Cottesmore skipper Jordan Smith fired over at the other end.
Harrowby's new signing Jake Showler - who has been playing for Stamford Lions this season after a brief spell at Bourne Town - then dragged a shot wide of the far post.
Pope fired wide after a strong run and shot before Cottesmore broke the deadlock on the half-hour mark.
Cropper's inswinging corner evaded everyone apart from Fontoura who bundled the ball home from close range.
Seals, who had collected his first caution for a foul which sent Showler flying, then fizzed a rasping drive narrowly wide as the Leicestershire Senior League Premier Division side maintained their advantage at the break.
Cottesmore did then think they had doubled their lead after the break when Pope shrugged of the challenge of Harrowby centre-back Billy Stubbs before blasting home past Abebowale.
However, the referee penalised the Cottesmore frontman for pushing despite a vast difference in statue between the two players involved.
This prompted Harrowby to push for an equaliser and substitute Aboubacar Sylla had a low strike deflected narrowly wide.
Hotson did well to hold a decent hit at full stretch before the Arrows had penalty appeals turned down after some desperate Cottesmore defence which saw home manager Jamie McGhee yellow-carded for his protests.
Pope then raced clear onto Sabberton's through ball but, with just Abebowale to beat, the Harrowby custodian made an excellent save.
This was quickly followed by Seals collecting his second caution for a foul which left Cottesmore to play the final seven minutes with 10 men.
And, just three minutes later, their United Counties League Division One hosts levelled through Alex Hales.
Hales' initial effort at the back post was blocked by Hotson, but the Harrowby man was quickest to react to the rebound and, although he appeared to punch the ball into the net, the effort was allowed to stand.
Cottesmore though produced one final Herculean effort as Eathan Milne was upended as he burst onto a loose ball in the box after Pope's effort had been blocked.
And Cropper kept his cool to convert the 90th minute penalty - it might not been have the cleanest connection that one of the sweetest strikers of the ball at the club could have made but it was enough to send Abebowale the wrong way and nestle in the corner of the home net.
There was still time for Harrowby to create one final injury-time opening as substitute David Kolapo bulldozed his way through on goal only to be thwarted by a brilliant block from Hotson as Cottesmore cleared their lines to secure their place in the first round proper.
Manager Giblin added: "I'm not going to say I enjoyed it because I didn't until the final whistle and I didn't even see the penalty go in. I looked at my feet, but we know that Coltons's superb from dead-balls.
"We also had our chances at 1-0. Tom Pope would score his chance nine times out of 10 but the keeper has made a good save.
"I did think maybe there was a sting in the tail for us and we could then have just packed 10 men behind the ball and gone for extra-time when they equalised.
"But we didn't because realistically extra-time with a man less wasn't going to benefit us.
"The guys from Harrowby were very complimentary and said we were deserved it which I think we did.
"It's great to be involved in the FA Vase and that's now two higher level clubs that we've managed to beat which shows that we have got good players at this club and we could easily move into that step six level.
"We'll just keep doing what we're doing. It is about the league, but this is a very nice thing to have."
Cottesmore: Hotson, Lomas (Iron), Cropper, Sabberton, Wilke, Fontoura (McJanet), Seals, Milne, J Smith, Pope, L Smith. Subs not used: Dennigan, Stannard, Hunt.
More by this authorJames Bedford