Keighley Town 2
Crossflatts Village 2
(Town win 5-4 on penalties)
A couple of goals from Leroy Hickman and a penalty save from Stuart Devlin in the shoot-out proved decisive as Keighley Town edged into the Keighley FA Sunday Cup final after 120 pulsating minutes of action.
Village made the short journey to Marley Stadium without six of their regular starting XI, who were either injured or unavailable, and they had to play striker Graham Emsley despite the fact that he was struggling with a bad back.
Village didn’t have any substitutes to call on, and this became a problem as early as the second minute when centre back Joe Lunn was forced off because of a leg injury so the depleted team were down to 10 men, after a horrible challenge.
Town then dominated proceedings because of the extra man and took the lead after 20 minutes when Hickman smashed home from inside the box.
Going a goal and a man behind seemed to galvanise the visitors into action. Player-manager Lee Bailey reshuffled his troops and Kevin Gill, Ronnie Cartwright, James Gill and Matthew Bentham worked tirelessly to get their side back into the game.
The hard tackles were going in thick and fast, as were the verbals towards referee Manfred Vojtas and he sent off Town’s Joe Drake on the 40-minute mark to make it 10 against 10.
Village then pressed for an equaliser and their efforts were rewarded just before the interval when right-back workhorse Craig Durn played the ball out to Aaron Clough on the right flank.
Clough waltzed past two defenders before drilling in an exquisite cross into the box, which found Waterhouse, whose powerful shot gave Devlin no chance.
After a nervy second half, the sides went into extra time. Town substitute Leon Smith charged through the Flatts backline and was clear on goal but centre back Kevin Gill, who had been a wall of strength for the Village all morning, tripped Smith up when he was clear on goal as he was just about to pull the trigger, and he was sent off for the offence.
Town’s Liam Bellamy got himself sent off just after half time in extra time to make it nine against nine but his side then took the lead moments after.
Smith’s near-post header was expertly saved by Village keeper Dom Bennett, only to fall at forward Hickman’s feet, who gladly poked home from a yard out for his second of the game.
Town looked to have settled the game after 112 minutes but the goal was flagged for offside.
Village huffed and puffed for an equaliser without really creating any gilt-edged chances, until two minutes to go when midfield general Bailey, playing in an unfamiliar role at the back, won the ball and played the ball out wide to Bentham, whose cross was volleyed home by Cartwright, sparking huge celebrations on the Village touchline.
The game went into a penalty shoot-out and Town keeper Devlin kept out Sam Waterhouse’s spot-kick which was the penalty shoot-out’s opener.
The next six penalties were scored so Town’s two-goal hero Hickman stepped up, knowing that he would send his team through if he scored.
His powerful right-foot shot hit the inside of a post and was heading away from goal until it agonisingly hit keeper Dom Bennett, who had dived the right way, on the head before crossing the line, sending the home side into the final.
There was a great moment of sportsmanship shown by Hickman afterwards when he went to console the dejected keeper.
This game had everything and will live long in the memory of those who witnessed it.
Town will play Bradford Phoenix in the final.
Keighley Town 2