Smells like team spirit as Tigers knock out Nirvana

Action from Saturday's seven-goal thriller. Photo: Steve Relf
Action from Saturday's seven-goal thriller. Photo: Steve Relf
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FA Vase fourth round - Thurnby Nirvana 3 Holbeach United 4 (after extra-time; 90 mins 3-3)

Unbelievable - what a dramatic day at Dakyn Road.

After two action-packed hours Holbeach United remained on the road to Wembley.

Overall they definitely deserved to go into the last 16 with £2,000 prize money - but the Tigers really made it tough for themselves.

Leading 2-0 at the start of the second half, it should have been pretty comfortable.

Somehow, though, they threw away that advantage and trailed 3-2 until Kern Miller levelled deep into stoppage-time.

By that stage Thurnby Nirvana were down to 10 men and in extra-time they picked up another red card.

Substitute Jamie Clarke headed home Holbeach’s winner - making it 11 successive victories over the last two months.

This was Nirvana’s first home defeat since September and the Leicester side earned so much credit for the fightback.

Goals were guaranteed as Holbeach are one of only three teams who have scored more than Nirvana in the ChromaSport & Trophies United Counties League’s Premier Division so far this season.

Last year’s East Midlands Counties League champions have also conceded more often than anyone else in the top half so Holbeach must have fancied their chances of exposing defensive weaknesses.

It was no surprise that Danny Steadman twice went close before the deadlock was broken on the half-hour mark.

Matty Nolan fed strike partner Lee Dube who took the ball past keeper James Flinders and slotted home from a tight angle.

Almost immediately Lee Beeson was denied by Flinders who also pulled off a save from Dube just before the break.

The lead was doubled 35 seconds after the restart and it should have been a case of game over.

Beeson nicked the ball off Alex Biggs and, with only Flinders to beat, he unselfishly set up Nolan to tap into the empty net.

A golden chance was wasted by Nolan and soon afterwards Ash Day found the bottom corner of the net.

That was the first goal conceded by Nick Conroy in 632 minutes since the FA VAse victory at home to Huntingdon Town in November.

But the Holbeach defence came under more pressure and they cracked as Nirvana skipper Matt Melbourne equalised and then top scorer Liam Canavan quickly made it 3-2.

The system changed and suddenly the Tigers were desperately searching for another goal to stay in the competition.

Nirvana substitute Celson Patrocinio was sent off for his second bookable offence - a foul on 88 minutes and kicking the ball away in stoppage-time - and Miller’s cool finish sent the tie into extra-time.

The winner came 90 seconds into the second period when Clarke nodded in at the far post from Craig Parker’s wonderful left-wing cross after he won the ball back.

Shaun Phillips was dismissed for a nasty elbow on Steadman in jumping for the ball and with nine men there was no way back for Nirvana.

The club share the name of an American rock band whose hits in the 1990s included ‘Smells like teen spirit’ - in case you wondered, that’s where our headline comes from.

It certainly sums up the Tigers’ togetherness and will to win - or more specifically, a determination never to give up - which kept those Wembley dreams alive and kicking.

THURNBY NIRVANA

3-4-1-2: Flinders; King, Phillips, L Day; A Day, Biggs (sub Patrocinio 69 mins), Gonga, Mwanyongo; Canavan (sub Doy 88 mins); Morris (sub Brooks 90 mins), Melbourne. Subs not used: Juma, Potter.

HOLBEACH UNITED

4-3-3: Conroy 7; Allen 7, Miller 8, Spencer 7, Cartwright 7; Duffy 7, Warfield 6 (sub King 83 mins, 7), Steadman 7; Beeson 7 (sub Parker 63 mins, 7), Nolan 6, Dube 6 (sub Clarke 67 mins, 7). Subs not used: Pinner, Overton.

REFEREE

Stuart Richardson.

GOALS

Dube (30 mins, 0-1); Nolan (46 mins, 0-2); A Day (54 mins, 1-2); Melbourne (74 mins, 2-2); Canavan (78 mins, 3-2); Miller (90 mins, 3-3); Clarke (107 mins, 3-4).

SENDINGS-OFF

Patrocinio (second bookable offence - kicking ball away); Phillips (serious foul play).

BOOKINGS

A Day, Allen, Patrocinio, L Day, Cartwright, Steadman (fouls); Clarke (dissent).

ATTENDANCE

183.

STAR MAN

Kern Miller - pick of the defence but biggest contribution came when he was sent up front for the final minutes.

WHO’S NEXT

AFC Rushden & Diamonds (H) - UCL Premier Division, Saturday.