Stamford Bels booked their place in the semi-finals of the PFA Challenge Cup after a thrilling penalty shoot-out victory on Saturday.
Goalkeeper George Winters made three outstanding saves in the shoot-out as Bels defeated Division Two high-flyers Bretton North End 3-2 on spot kicks after the match had finished 1-1 after 90 minutes.
Manager Lewis Morley was full of praise for his side after beating a top-class Bretton team that included prolific United Counties League marksman Jamie Graham who was superbly shackled by Tyler Sculthorpe.
Morley said: “It was a brilliant game. The lads battled hard, they showed lots of determination and passion.
“The game should never have gone to penalties because we had plenty of opportunities which should have been taken in the game. But, if we keep making the chances, then the goals will come.
“Bretton were a good side and I believe they are too good for Division Two. They have a great team bond and some outstanding players.
“Tom Holland was new to our side and it was the first time he had played under me and he stood out by a mile. He was strong throughout and led very well.
“George Winters was superb. He commanded his area and individually won us the game in the end, but it was an all-round team performance. I’m looking forward to the semi-finals.”
With Rhys Gilson unavailable due to a broken toe, Holland was the stand out performer throughout.
He ensured that Bels weren’t going to back out of the fight when he put three crunching tackles in on the Bretton midfield in the first 10 minutes.
With 30 minutes gone it was an even game with half chances falling to both sides, but just before half-time both Joe McDonald and Lewis Archer had massive opportunities denied by the Bretton keeper.
After the break Bels once again came out fighting and broke the deadlock when some smart play from James Slack released Scott Toomey down the wing.
Toomey drove past the Bretton right back and then picked out Holland on the edge of the Bretton box and his first time strike rocketed into the top corner.
The woodwork then denied Bels a second when Toomey struck from range.
With minutes remaining, Winters made an incredible double save but all of Bels’ good work was unravelled via a goalmouth scramble where Bretton tapped home to take the tie to penalties.
Using the new penalty system, Bels’ Dave Atkinson stepped up first and drove his strike into the bottom left-hand corner.
Bretton now took two penalties with Winters making a brace of outstanding saves before Holland calmly slotted home his penalty to put Bels into a 2-0 lead.
Slack was next to step up, but he fired his strike over the bar. Bretton scored their third and fourth penalties to level the scores at 2-2.
Archer’s cool penalty put Bels back into the lead before Toomey’s was well saved by the Bretton keeper.
Bretton stepped up for their final penalty to try and take the tie into sudden death, but they were once again denied by Winters for his third incredible save.
Bels are now in the last four alongside FC Peterborough, Moulton Harrox Reserves and the winners of the Eye United versus Tydd St Mary clash.
They return to Peterborough League Division One action this weekend when they host table-topping Moulton Harrox Reserves.