UCL Knockout Cup - Holbeach United 2 Rothwell Corinthians 1
Holbeach United suffered the fright of their lives but dug deep to beat Rothwell Corinthians at Carter’s Park.
The Tigers, second in the UCL Premier Division and on a seven-game winning streak, met their Northamptonshire opponents who are seventh in UCL Division One.
But it looked far from certain that John Chand and Graham Drury’s men were going to head into Wednesday’s crunch league clash at home to Yaxley with their 100 per cent record extended to eight games.
Corinthians were out of the traps like a Conference side trying to topple Premier League opposition as the home side conceded two corners and a free-kick in the first three minutes.
Indeed, it was from the free-kick that the Tigers fell behind as Rothwell danger man Jordan Henson curled an 18-yard effort to the right of the wall and into Leigh Overton’s unguarded left-hand side of the net.
In fact for the first 20 minutes, the UCL Division One side laid siege to the Holbeach goal as a combination of testing conditions, an increasingly frustrating refereeing performance from Mary Harmer and restless fans threatened to make all thoughts of FA Cup third-round giant-killing seem like striking in the UCL KO Cup.
Henson had two more chances to extend his side’s lead before Gary King sent a 20-yard free-kick along the turf and straight to keeper Martin Thorpe.
But that was the signal for Holbeach to dominate possession and they were unlucky not be rewarded for their wearing down of Rothwell as assistant referee Damon Pywell’s offside flag first denied Dube on 28 minutes and Stacey Cartwright on the stroke of half-time.
In between those chances, Henson was put through twice with a chance to increase Rothwell’s lead, only for Overton to save on both occasions.
However, another sign of the tide turning emerged as three Rothwell players – Tom Judge, Tom Scarratt and Ryan Goodband – ended up in Harmer’s notebook after fouls.
Four minutes into the second half, Jake Duffy was set up by Craig Parker, playing at right-back, only for the midfielder’s 18-yard effort to smack the junction of crossbar and left-hand post.
But with just over 20 minutes to go, Chand and Drury made a triple change when Matty Warfield, Gary King and Matty Nolan, were replaced by Lee Beeson, Danny Steadman and Jonny Allen respectively.
Holbeach switched to a 4-4-2 formation, testing Rothwell with a more direct approach to equalising, which produced chances for Beeson just seconds after coming on, Kern Miller and Dube, who hit the bar with 14 minutes left.
At the other end, an audacious Nayim-like lob by Luke Phillips for Rothwell almost shut the tie down as a contest with a quarter of an hour to go.
If Holbeach needed a spur, it came with ten minutes to go when Lee Beeson was booked for diving, a decision which enraged Tigers skipper Jamie Clarke.
Three minutes later, just like Manchester United 30 years previously when Kevin Moran’s red card in the FA Cup final against Everton was the cue for a wonder strike by Norman Whiteside, Clarke broke down the left and his deflected cross was headed home by Dube to the relief of the Carter’s Park faithful.
On 84 minutes, Dube won the match-winning penalty when upended while running across the edge of the penalty area.
Up stepped Beeson to direct a low, hard and unerring drive into the bottom left-hand corner of Thorpe’s net to seal a passage into the third round where the Tigers will meet another UCL Division One side, Olney Town.
4-3-3: Overton 7; Parker 6, Miller 5, Brown 6, Cartwright 7; Duffy 6, King 6 (sub Steadman 69 mins, 6), Warfield 6 (sub Beeson 69 mins, 6); Dube 8, Clarke 7, Nolan 6 (sub Allen 69 mins, 6). Subs not used: Spencer, Conroy.
4-5-1: Thorpe; Anderson, Judge, Peniasko, Phillips; Watts (sub Wright 77 mins), Page, McMillan, Goodband (sub Locklin 86 mins), Scarratt; Henson.
Henson (3 mins, 1-0); Dube (83 mins, 1-1); Beeson pen (84 mins, 2-1).
Judge, Scarratt, Goodband (fouls); Duffy (dissent); Beeson (diving).
Lee Dube – on a day when his team-mates threatened to undo all the hard work that has put the Tigers in contention for four trophies, Dube threw his weight around in the best way possible by scoring the equaliser and earning the penalty to set up the match-winner.
Yaxley (H) – Premier Division, Wednesday.