MATCH VERDICT AND VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: Another shoot-out defeat for Spalding United
It’s happened all over again for Spalding United.
For the fourth successive season, the Tulips went out of the League Cup in a penalty shoot-out.
Considering that record – plus a consistent failure to convert from 12 yards in any game – it was no surprise to see another cup exit on spot-kicks.
In previous campaigns, they have been knocked out by Ilkeston, Matlock Town and AFC Rushden & Diamonds.
This time, Gresley went through and again Spalding were left to reflect on a series of missed opportunities over 90 minutes.
The Tulips should have built on the advantage from Lewis Millington’s first senior goal.
The 20-year-old slotted in after Jordan Lemon couldn’t quite get on the end of Jonny Lockie’s left-wing cross.
Millington started on the right wing and got less than half an hour in his favoured position up front.
After his debut earned the man-of-the-match honours at home to Cleethorpes Town in August, it seems Millington can push for a regular role in the first-team squad.
The development of those under-21 players on a night like this was always going to be more important than the result.
Alex Smith and Jordan Neil were handed full debuts as youngsters Matt Clarke, Marcel Chipamaunga and Scott Floyd came off the bench in the second half.
However, the key factor in Spalding’s slender lead came down to a hat-trick of first-half misses by a more experienced player.
Jamie Jackson – who got three goals last Saturday – was guilty of wasting chances to make the tie pretty safe.
Neil almost doubled the lead but Gresley hit back as Smith was happy to see Jon Stevenson and Ryan Robbins fire fractionally wide.
Jenk Acar missed a golden chance inside the six-yard box when it seemed easier to mark a terrific individual display by hitting the target.
In stoppage-time, those misses were punished when Robbins burst into the box and found the bottom corner of the net.
Jordan Lemon, Jack Fixter and Floyd all had penalties kept out by Callum Hawkins.
Smith also denied Lucas Harrison and Matt Melbourne – but in sudden death it was left to Louis Danquah to put Gresley into the next round of the Integro Cup.
4-4-2: Smith 7; Fixter 7, Walker 7, Humble 7, A Jackson 7; Millington 7 (sub Floyd 80 mins), Lemon 7, Acar 8, Neil 7 (sub Chipamaunga 65 mins, 6); J Jackson 7, Lockie 7 (sub Clarke 59 mins, 6). Sub not used: Duggan.
3-4-1-2: Hawkins; Hammerton, Harrison, Eggington; Hill, Manship, Law (sub Robbins 56 mins), Danquah; Stevenson; Dasaolu (sub Morris 65 mins), K King (sub Melbourne 76 mins). Subs not used: Jarvis, R King.
Millington (25 mins, 1-0); Robbins (90 mins, 1-1).
Lemon (saved); Harrison (saved); J Jackson 1-0; Manship 1-1; Acar 2-1; Stevenson 2-2; Fixter (saved); Melbourne (saved); Walker 3-2; Robbins 3-3; Floyd (saved); Danquah 3-4.
Walker (foul); Robbins (dissent).
Jenk Acar – took control of the game from central midfield.
Romulus (A) – Evo-Stik South, Saturday.