By Ryan Batty:
The magic of the FA Cup was present for Nantwich as they fired three past National League North side Nuneaton Town to progress to the Fourth Qualifying Round. A fantastic second-half showing powered Dave Cooke’s men to victory on a chilly and rainy afternoon in Cheshire.
Nantwich took the lead on the stroke of the half-hour mark as a cross towards Troy Bourne was headed away by a Nuneaton defender, but David Forbes was on-hand to stab the ball home. On the hour mark, Joel Stair doubled The Dabbers’ lead as he headed in from close-range after Dean Lyness parried Toby Mullarkey’s header following a Sean Cooke corner.
Three minutes later, The Dabbers netted a third as a combination of Harry Clayton and Sean Cooke saw the latter fire into an empty net after a defensive error. Nuneaton pulled one back fifteen minutes from time as Greg Mills curled in a close-range free-kick but it wasn’t enough to mount a comeback.
Nantwich had the first chance of the game as a quick cross from the right was just over the head of David Forbes. Just three minutes later, the visitors launched into a quick break, but some fancy footwork wasn’t enough as an under-hit shot was saved by Krystian Burzynski.
After fifteen minutes, Nantwich developed a great move down the left-hand side, and a last-ditch clearance was all that stopped The Dabbers from taking the lead. Despite the threat of a higher-league attack, Dave Cooke’s defence held firm throughout the game and put their three last games behind them.
A cross from Troy Bourne was whipped in after twenty minutes, and Forbes received the ball in the box. The ex-City of Liverpool striker almost converted a stunning strike, but alas, it was just over the bar.
However, Forbes didn’t have to wait too long before his goal came, as just before the half-hour mark, a cross intended for Troy Bourne was headed clear and into Forbes, who was able to stab the ball home to take the lead.
Nuneaton were desperate to get back into the game as soon as possible, and were aggressively pushing forward – a test of strength and endurance for the young backline, but they held firm.
With ten minutes before the half, Matt Bell saw a gap in the defence, and took an audacious effort from thirty yards; his shot was seen past the post by Nuneaton ‘keeper Dean Lyness.
David Forbes found himself one-on-one with Lyness just five minutes later, though his well-struck shot was saved. Nuneaton forged a neat counter-attack and a cross into the box saw three shots saved, the last of which was saved off the line.
We went into the break with Nantwich leading 1-0.
Nantwich opened the second period much like they had played in the first, their assured backline kept the visitors off-target, as seen just four minutes into the second half as a corner was swung into the box, but Troy Bourne was there to clear the ball away.
A couple of minutes later, Ryan Beswick hit one from twenty yards, but Jamie Morgan was there to block the effort.
On the hour mark, Caspar Hughes won a corner after forcing a block from a Nuneaton defender. Matt Bell’s set piece found Toby Mullarkey, whose header was parried by Lyness, but only as far as Joel Stair who doubled The Dabbers’ lead with a powerful header into the top corner.
Just three minutes later, Nantwich netted their third as Harry Clayton took the ball round the keeper and selflessly left it for Sean Cooke to fire home.
Cooke almost got his second as a free-kick directly in his territory curled over the wall and Lyness could only prevent Nantwich’s fourth by his fingertips as he forced it to clip the bar twenty minutes from time.
After seventy-five minutes, Nantwich suffered a late scare as a Nuneaton free-kick on the edge of the box saw substitute Greg Mills curl the ball around the wall and into the back of the net, leaving Burzynski with no chance.
However, Nantwich stepped up admirably and kept the game at 3-1, and while there was little to offer in terms of Nuneaton chances, Nantwich continued to knock on the door of the visitors, and looked for a fourth to secure the tie.
Despite five minutes of added time, Nantwich were happy to see out the game and progress comfortably to the Fourth Qualifying Round, the draw of which takes place on Monday 2nd October.
Nantwich: Burzynski, Bourne (Jones 85’), Morgan, Stair, Mullarkey, Hall (C), Hughes, Bell, Clayton, Cooke, Forbes (Davies 77’)
Subs not used: Quinn (GK), McDonald, Brooke, Rowntree, Griggs
Nuneaton: Lyness, Trotman, Wildin, Beswick (C), Gascoigne, Heaton, Nti (Elliott 63’), Daniels (Nicholson 63’), Chambers, Hickey (Mills 63’), Henshall
Subs not used: Dielna, Taylor, Ashton, Glover
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