It has been a memorable run in the Emirates FA Cup for Nantwich Town this season, coming through four rounds of qualifying to earn a tie against AFC Fylde this Saturday, the club’s first ever home tie in the main draw of the world’s oldest cup competition. Here, we recap the journey so far and the brilliant moments that will live long in the memories of Dabbers supporters.
First Round Qualifying – 7th September – Nantwich Town 3 – 1 Grantham Town
The Dabbers’ cup campaign got underway with a comfortable victory over fellow Northern Premier League side Grantham Town. Sean Cooke opened the scoring for Nantwich, finishing smartly after good link-up play between Luke Walsh and Joe Mwasile on the left hand side. The visitors’ Craig Westcarr equalised shortly before half-time, but the Dabbers responded well at the start of the second half.
Valdemar Schousboe was brought on for his Dabbers debut and made a big impact, squandering a couple of chances, but one of those led to Ben Harrison giving the Dabbers the lead again. Schousboe did eventually get on the scoresheet with an impressive low finish to secure the tie and send Dave Cooke’s men through.
Second Round Qualifying – 21st September – AFC Telford United 0 – 3 Nantwich Town
On paper, the draw was not kind to Nantwich, an away tie against Telford of the division above. But the Dabbers paid no attention to their opponents’ higher ranking, putting in an exceptional team performance to win 3-0 at a sunny New Bucks Head.
The goals were of the highest quality, the first from Joe Malkin a brilliant, curling effort that nestled in the top corner to stun the home crowd.
Joe Davis doubled the lead shortly after, finishing at the back post via a deflection to put the Dabbers in dreamland.
Telford did push hard to come back into the tie but the Dabbers defence and keeper Greg Hall were like a yellow wall not letting anything through.
Skipper Caspar Hughes capped a magnificent day with another wonderful goal, blasting into the top corner and allowing the Dabbers fans to revel in a fantastic victory.
After the game, First Team Coach Jay Bateman said: “We’ve come here to be positive and try to get a win and that’s what we’ve done. I think we deserved it, a great team performance and I couldn’t be happier.”
Third Round Qualifying – 5th October – Nantwich Town 1 – 0 Morpeth Town
Onto the third round of qualifying and another home tie against opposition from the same division. This tie provided easily the most dramatic and joyous moment of the run, with substitute Joe Mwasile scoring from close range in stoppage time to win the game.
Before then, the match was a tense affair which was largely low on quality. Peppered with stoppages for fouls, it never really got going until Sean Cooke hit the top of the crossbar from a free kick.
In the second half, Morpeth changed their entire front three to try and win the game. But it was a single, inspired substitution from Dave Cooke that proved decisive.
A high cross into the Morpeth box was headed down by Malkin to Mwasile, who pounced to finish with one of his first touches and win the tie in the 93rd minute. The goal sparked ecstatic celebrations across the Weaver Stadium as the Dabbers moved to within 90 minutes of the First Round.
First Team Assistant Manager Danny Griggs said after the game that the ending was ‘unbelievable’ and that ‘Dave’s substitution has worked once again, he always seems to get it right’.
Fourth Round Qualifying – 19th October – Nantwich Town 1 – 0 King’s Lynn Town
The final hurdle took place against King’s Lynn, who were in good form in National League North. Dave Cooke surprised many with his change to a 3-5-2 system with the two giants of Malkin and Schousboe unleashed together up front, but it definitely paid off.
The Dabbers had the best of the early chances, with Joel Stair, Malkin, Schousboe and Harrison all coming close. After missing those chances, you’d think that King’s Lynn would strike back and be more clinical when they got the opportunity.
Instead, Nantwich did take the lead, James Lawrie’s cross missing Malkin but finding Troy Bourne, who slid home at full stretch for his first ever goal for the Dabbers.
David Webb thumped the crossbar in the second half, and King’s Lynn had an equaliser ruled out for offside as the tension of being on the cusp of the First Round set in.
There was amazing non-stop support from the 742 strong crowd at the Weaver and they were on their feet as Greg Hall acrobatically kept out a late header.
The final whistle brought jubilant scenes as the Dabbers secured passage to the First Round proper for only the third time in the club’s history after beating their second higher-ranked opponent.
Manager Dave Cooke said of this result: “The lads were brilliant, every one of them. We could have won by more goals. It was a very hard fought game but the rewards for a club like Nantwich are huge.
“I said to the lads before the game, ‘this is a chance for you all to seize a little bit of glory’ and we’ve got our just rewards.”
It has already been a fairytale run, but everyone at Nantwich will be hoping there’s just a little bit more FA Cup magic left when Saturday comes.
— Nantwich Town FC (@TheDabbers) October 19, 2019