Biggleswade FC booked their place in the last 32 of the Buildbase FA Vase with a nerve-shredding penalty shootout win over SSML rivals Tring Athletic at Langford Road on Saturday.
The Premier Division’s top two slugged it out for 240 minutes over the course of two well-contested ties and both had their chances.
But FC held their nerve from the spot to win a shootout for the first time and book an early January date with Stowmarket Town.
The two teams are separated by just two points in the table and this tie was every bit as tight as that margin suggests.
In the 13th minute Adam Hunt’s brilliant first time cross was bravely defended by the Tring defence with Pat McCafferty closing in for the header.
FC continued to look the more likely going forward. An intricate combination between the Marsh brothers sent Pat McCafferty surging for the byline. He was almost on top of the near post when he slid the ball across the face of goal, but somehow Tring scrambled it clear.
The big chances of the half arrived within a minute of each other. Sinfield pulled off a terrific save to deny a power header from an FC corner, whilst at the other end a scramble looked certain to be bundled home, but the ball ended up skewing wide.
The potential defining moments of the tie arrived early in the second period of extra time. The FC back three switched off allowing Campbell a sighter of goal in the penalty area, but a brave last ditch block saw the shot deflected over.
Moments later a long punt forward saw Campbell racing in behind. He nipped in to guide the ball towards an unguarded net. However Pena wasn’t ready to see his side go out as he hooked the ball off the line in the nick of time!
It was then FC’s turn to go close. Ryan Inskip sent over a brilliant free-kick. The ball was recycled and Pena volleyed over.
And so to penalties. Nathan George, a 118th-minute introduction for his penalty-taking prowess, didn’t disappoint by kicking off the shootout with a confident dispatch. Tring squared things before Ryan Inskip thumped home.
Tring’s Carl Mensah levelled with another confident kick before skipper Alex Marsh drove home FC’s third .
Campbell, Tring’s top scorer, went down the middle, but it had just too much elevation and sailed over the bar.
Substitute Justin Leavers showed a cool head to guide another classy kick beyond Sinfield to make it 4-2. Fellow sub Jack Read had to score and he duly obliged.
If Lawrie Marsh felt any pressure at all he didn’t show it. He didn’t just net the winning penalty, he lashed it into the top left-hand corner with interest to send the home players, management and support into delirium.
FC return to league action for the first time in three weeks on Saturday when we travel to third-place Hadley.