Nantiwch Town were knocked out of the Integro League Cup by Widnes FC in an 11-goal thriller that saw the Dabbers go from 3-0 down to 4-3 up at half-time, then from 5-3 up to 6-5 down at the death.
The main positives for Dave Cooke’s side were a brace for Callum Saunders on his return to the club and a first team debut for 16-year-old Callum Parker, but this will be a bitter pill to swallow after such a late defeat from a promising position.
A quite remarkable first half saw an awful start for the Dabbers. An inexperienced defence was pillaged twice in the first five minutes by the club with a Viking longboat on their badge.
After three minutes, a hopeful pull back from James Murray was met by a determined Rhain Hellawell charging forward from left back.
Two minutes after that, Troy Bourne got caught under a ball over the top, the ball flicking off his head and coming through to Anointed Chukwu, who slotted it away past Daniel Read.
The Dabbers were starting to build momentum after this, but that was thoroughly deflated on the half hour. George Webster got the ball in midfield and his first shot was blocked by Bourne, however the ball broke through to Webster and he managed to beat Read to the ball and poke it in.
That looked to be tie over, but this was no ordinary game. From Nantwich’s first corner, Owen Wheeler misjudged the flight, leaving an empty goal for Joe Davis to head in to.
Three minutes after the first goal, Dave Cooke made his first change, bringing on Luke Walsh for Steven Ziboth-Mengba, and the winger made an immediate impact, playing in Will Saxon who pulled it back dangerously, so dangerously that Widnes defender Keenan Quansah put it into his own net.
A minute before half time, the equaliser came. Valdemar Schousboe received the ball in the right channel, took a couple of touches and shot across Wheeler and into the bottom corner, a tidy finish.
Unbelievably, this was not the end of the scoring in the first half. There was still time from the kick-off for a deflected cross from Saxon to spin across to Callum Saunders to tap in on his second debut.
The second half carried on in much the same vein. Walsh slid a through ball expertly to Saunders who drove towards goal, spotted Wheeler coming off his line, and deftly lifted it over him for his second and the Dabbers’ fifth.
Surely now, the tie was done? Wrong again. With 15 minutes to go, Widnes right back Jay Roberts cut onto his supposedly weaker left foot and curled a shot right into the top corner with sub goalkeeper James Hawkins helpless.
On 84 minutes, Hellawell got his second, scrambling the ball in as Widnes piled forward with nothing to lose.
With that, it looked as if the tie would have to be decided on penalties. But once more, this match had other ideas. Four minutes of stoppage time were added, and in the last of those a Widnes corner bounced out to skipper Mike Burke, who caught the ball perfectly and struck it into the roof of the net to cap off a match with more twists and turns than a Netflix drama.
Nantwich Town: Read (Hawkins, 46), Bateman, Boyle, Bourne, Davis (C), Sarr, Saxon, Cope, Schousboe (Parker, 68), Saunders, Ziboth-Mengba (Walsh, 36)
Goals: Davis 33, Quansah OG 37, Schousboe 44, Saunders 45, 55.
Widnes FC: Wheeler, Roberts, Hellawell, Quansah, Shaw, Burke, Webster, Ventre, Chukwu, Murray, Steele
Goals: Hellawell 3, 84, Chukwu 5, Webster 30, Burke 90+4.