By Ryan Batty:
Nantwich Town put five past Northern Counties East League Premier Division side Worksop Town in their First Round Qualifying tie of the FA Cup.
It was a brace from exciting debutant Aaron Knight that helped the Dabbers to victory, as well as a superb, curling free-kick from James Lawrie, a powerful header from Callum Saunders and a rifling half-volley from Steve Jones that put Dave Cooke’s men into the hat for Monday’s draw.
Cooke made three changes from the side that drew with Hyde United on Tuesday, as Knight, Jamie Morgan, Danny Glover came into the side, while Joe Malkin and Craig Lindfield dropped to the bench, and Toby Mullarkey was absent from the squad due to illness.
The Dabbers asserted strong pressure from the referee’s first whistle, as Lawrie and Matt Bell had early efforts, Bell’s going wide of the post on the volley, while Lawrie’s thumping shot went into the arms of Andrew Francis.
Nathan Cotterell, who played another ninety minutes at left-back, had a great ball over the top for Saunders cancelled out due to the assistant referee’s flag for offside.
After eleven minutes, a poor defensive header from Worksop almost fell into the path of Saunders, but the visitors were there to clear the ball away. A moment later, Saunders had another chance that went wide of Francis’ post.
Nantwich almost took the lead after thirteen minutes, as a free-kick earned by the men in green saw a cross towards the back post in the direction of Joel Stair, but Francis was just about there to clear away before a shot at goal.
A cross into the box found the head of an unmarked Stair, but the defender was unable to glance it home; a deflection causing another corner for the home side.
NA few half-clearances in the box were sloppily attempted by Worksop, before the ball fell into the path of Aaron Knight, who slammed home to put the Dabbers in front.
Saunders could have doubled Nantwich’s lead after twenty-three minutes, as skipper Caspar Hughes turned his marker inside-out, before piercing the defence to find Saunders. The Welshman’s left-footed effort was tipped away from the bottom corner by Francis.
Nantwich had a free-kick after twenty-four minutes, a central chance, on the edge of the ‘D’. Lawrie tapped it off to Glover, whose hard-hitting shot went into the arms of Francis, who, despite a parry, was able to collect eventually.
The first major chance for the visitors came after twenty-seven minutes, as Connor Brunt rose above Troy Bourne to head over the bar.
The wouldn’t have to wait long for an equaliser however, as a lapse in concentration from the Nantwich backline saw Brunt played in, and a well-timed finish went past Jaaskelainen to put the two teams on level footing.
The Dabbers could have retaken the lead after thirty-three minutes, as Lawrie’s cross to Glover at the back post saw the ex-Hednesford forward head into the path of Saunders. The striker fired it into a clearance from Worksop, but only as far as Hughes, whose effort was blasted over the bar.
That would be the last action of the first half, despite two minutes of added time. The two sides went into the break level, though it was one-way traffic in Nantwich’s direction.
There were no changes at the break for either side, as Nantwich looked to put themselves back in the driving seat for the tie.
Joel Stair had the chance to score seven minutes after the restart, as he was defender-turned-striker, skipping past a defender in the box before a snapshot was saved well by Francis.
Glover could have put Nantwich back in front soon after, as his header from a corner was smashed off the bar.
However, it wasn’t long before Dave Cooke’s men put their noses back in front, as Jamie Morgan was fouled on the edge of the Worksop ‘D’, earning them a free-kick. Lawrie stepped up, and in a moment of sheer class, curled the effort into the top-left, a stunning effort by the midfielder for his second free-kick goal in a week.
Worksop reacted fairly well to the goal, as they put some pressure on down the right-hand side. A cross into the box found an unmarked Brunt, but his effort went wide of the goal, luckily for the men in green.
Nantwich had a free-kick in the exact same position on the hour mark, and while Lawrie didn’t mirror his goal from a few minutes previously, his shot was deflected off the wall, high into the air. It looked for a moment that Francis might get to it, but Aaron Knight was there to deftly head over the keeper and into the bottom corner.
The Dabbers added to their tally just two-minutes later, as a lovely cross from Danny Glover found Saunders, who flicked a header home to give Nantwich a 4-1 lead.
After sixty-seven minutes, substitute Joe Mwasile shepherded the ball out on the right-hand side, before being hacked down from behind. A free-kick was awarded a yard in from the corner flag. The cross came into the box, and Stair headed into the back of the net, but the eagle-eyed referee blew his whistle for a foul on the centre-back.
There was little action for the next fifteen minutes as Nantwich took their foot off the gas slightly, which was shown with eight minutes remaining, when substitute Tomas Poole put the ball in, despite a few late challenges by the visitors in the build-up.
Nantwich were caught slacking a few times at the back, but the Dabbers were able to deal with the pressure well.
However, with three minutes to go, it was game over as from the bench, grizzled veteran Steve Jones rifled one home on the half-volley to seal Nantwich’s qualification into the Second Round Qualifying.
Despite three minutes of added time, the Dabbers didn’t add to their lead, and put themselves into the hat for Monday’s Second Round Qualifying draw.
Nantwich were scheduled to travel to Marine on Tuesday evening, but due to Tommy Lawson’s side drawing with Scarborough Athletic in their FA Cup tie today, this week’s game has been postponed.
The Dabbers will return to action on Saturday when they host Whitby Town for a 3.00pm kick-off.
Nantwich: Jaaskelainen, Morgan, Cotterell, Stair, Bourne, Hughes (C), Lawrie, Bell (Cooke 65′), Glover, Saunders (Jones 75′), Knight (Mwasile 63′)
Subs not used: Malkin, Spiess, McDonald, Lindfield
Worksop: Francis, Price (C), Trench, Royles, Reay, Pemberton, Patterson, Goodwin, Mitchell (Wankiewicz 77′), Jordan (Poole 63′), Brunt (Simpson 63′)
Subs not used: Wilson, Gamble, Atherton, Wilson
Ref: Mr K Buckley
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