SPALDING UNITED 1 NORTHAMPTON SPENCER 0 (AET): Star striker TJ Nightingale jumped off the bench to net a late winner and spare Spalding the lottery of a UCL League Cup penalty shoot-out on Saturday.
Prior to his intervention, the Tulips endured a frustrating two hours against hard-working UCL Division One outfit Northampton Spencer at the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field.
Luke Kennedy even missed an extra-time penalty for Spalding in the first round tie, before Nightingale pounced on a defensive error to lash home the only goal of the game from six yards on 117 minutes.
Tulips chief Pat Rayment paid tribute to opponents Spencer, admitting it was one of the toughest games his side have had this season.
“They made life very difficult for us,” admitted the former Peterborough United professional. “They were very physical and gave us a really hard time.
“The longer the game went on I started to wonder if it wasn’t going to be our day – and I didn’t really fancy penalties, especially after missing one.
“But TJ came on and got the job done, which is all that matters in cup games. It was a decent all-round display.”
The Tulips, who welcomed back skipper Lee Canoville and midfielder Dan Steadman, were still missing a host of first team regulars for the cup clash.
They bossed the first half, but created little. Dan Cotton had their best chance, but was denied by the first of many super stops from Stuart Lutter.
After the break, Kennedy drove a good effort just wide of the post, while a header by Tom James from a Canoville cross flew high over the bar.
Nightingale then slotted a clear chance wide as full time approached – as did Miles Chamberlain in the final minute.
With an additional half hour needed, and Kennedy seeing a 109th minute penalty saved, a shoot-out now loomed large.
But Nightingale had other ideas, firing low past the seemingly unbeatable Lutter with just three minutes remaining.
Spalding will host Cogenhoe United in round two.
Tulips: Drury, Canoville, Freeman, Chamberlain, Fuff, Cotton, James, Hall, Steadman (Hussey), Joyce (Nightingale), Battersby (Kennedy).