Joe Mwasile struck in stoppage time to claim a dramatic 1-0 FA Cup victory for Nantwich Town over Morpeth Town.
A dour game that was filled with fouls and few chances looked destined for a replay up in the North East on Tuesday. Sean Cooke came closest before Mwasile’s amazing finale, clipping the crossbar with a well hit free kick.
But sub Mwasile managed to get on the end of Joe Malkin’s knock down to put the Dabbers just a game away from the first round proper.
The first half was typified by the kind of physical battles that signify what you might call a ‘proper cup tie’. At times, it was more MMA Cup than FA Cup, with flailing limbs, bookings and plenty of work for both medical teams. Joe Malkin was at the centre of most, leaving Michael Turner on the deck after three minutes, then being hacked down himself not long after.
Joe Davis got a yellow card after doing what any footballer would do when jumping for a ball in using his arms. And the Highwaymen’s captain Jeff Henderson went into the book for a cynical challenge on Sean Cooke.
It was inevitable, then, that any chances in that first half would come from set pieces with so many fouls being given. And that chance fell to Cooke, who won another free-kick on the D of the penalty area in the twenty-eighth minute, he took it himself and clipped the top of the bar, a good effort that just needed that bit more dip.
There were a couple of other half chances from crosses into both boxes. Sean Taylor appeared to mis-hit a cross that drifted narrowly over Greg Hall’s bar, for a moment it looked as if the Dabbers stopper had misjudged the flight.
And Luke Walsh, a constant source of positive energy on the left, had a similar moment, his low cross deflected into the side netting with top scorer Malkin lurking, as a closely fought first half drew to a close.
The second half was largely more of the same, with tight, physical battles and few chances to speak of.
Sean Cooke had a half chance six minutes into the half, after Malkin managed to knock down a cross. But Cooke was always stretching and could not keep it down.
The Dabbers were caught out on the hour mark, a simple ball over the top put Liam Henderson one on one with Josh Langley, Langley did well to shepherd him away from danger.
Walsh’s non-stop beating of his man left Morpeth with little alternative to fouling him whenever he attempted to run past them. This eventually led to Stephen Forster getting booked.
A handball decision against Jimmy Lawrie led to some ‘discussions’ between Dave Cooke and one of the Morpeth coaches. This was genuinely one of the highlights of the half until late on – which shows the lacklustre quality from both sides.
Morpeth changed their entire front three in an effort to steal the victory in the tie, but it was to no avail.
Malkin shot straight at Lowson as we moved into the last ten minutes, and Caspar Hughes tested Lowson, but it took until stoppage time for Malkin to have a final decisive impact.
As the Dabbers piled forward as the clock ticked into three minutes of stoppage time, a lofted ball into the box was nodded down by Malkin, who this time found his man, and that man was eight-seventh-minute-substitute Joe Mwasile with one of his first touches, poking home at the back post to send a packed Weaver Stadium into delirium. It looked for all the world as if it would be a replay – but Dave Cooke’s inspired substitution managed to nick it for Nantwich by the barest of all margins.
The Dabbers are now just ninety minutes away from the First Round Proper of The Emirates FA Cup for only the third time in their history, with the draw taking place on Monday lunchtime.
Prior to the Fourth Qualifying Round, however, Nantwich will make the relatively short trip to Irongate to take on Bamber Bridge on Tuesday, prior to hosting Radcliffe on Non-League Day next Saturday afternoon.
Nantwich Town: Greg Hall, Joe Davis, Matty Devine, Joel Stair, Josh Langley, Caspar Hughes (C), James Lawrie, David Webb, Joe Malkin, Sean Cooke, Luke Walsh (Joe Mwasile 87′)
Subs not used: Matt Bell, Daniel Read (GK), Troy Bourne, Clayton McDonald, Valdemar Schousboe, Callum Parker
Goals: Joe Mwasile (90+3′)
Yellow Cards: Joe Davis (14′), Joel Stair (57′)
Morpeth Town: Dan Lowson, Stephen Forster, Chris Reid, Liam Noble, Jeff Henderson, Michael Turner, Sean Taylor, Sam Hodgson, Liam Henderson (Ben Harmison 78′), Sean Reid (Jack Foalle 71′), Joe Walton (Michael McKeown 80′)
Subs not used: Shabz Mohammed, Tom Potter, Dale Walker, Kris Thackray
Yellow Cards: Jeff Henderson (37′), Chris Reid (59′), Liam Henderson (66′), Stephen Forster (67′)