Hednesford Town Manager Rob Smith has described the atmosphere in the changing room after his side defied the odds in superb fashion on Tuesday night by winning on penalties against West Auckland Town, despite playing with just nine men for almost an hour and admitted he could barely believe the performance of his team.
Dave Macpherson and Ben Bailey saw red in the second half with the score at 2-2 but, led by an inspirational defensive performance by Francino Francis and Dan Crane among others, The Pitmen held out through extra time and emerged victorious after a penalty shoot out.
‘I have to say I’ve never witnessed anything like that in football. Sure, I’ve had games with nine men before but never hung on for so long in such dramatic fashion. Everyone knows this lot have a special team spirit, but this was taken to another level, they went over and above the call of duty in my opinion and the fitness levels were awesome.
I can’t describe the feeling, other than pure elation. With eleven against eleven they were by far the better team, which was disappointing, but I honestly thought with nine we looked more like scoring.’
The victory in County Durham, in front of over 50 Pitmen fans who had taken advantage of the Supporters Association’s offer of subsidised £5 coach travel, will go down in the annuls as one of the most inspirational victories of Smith’s reign and the win has now set up a Fourth Qualifying Round tie against Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division strugglers Stamford.
The holy grail of the First Round Proper is in sight for the first time since 2006 and Smith believes that, with the continued support of the Pitmen faithful, there is no reason why his side can’t be in the hat alongside such famous Clubs as Coventry City, Sheffield United and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
‘Of course we can dream because we have a chance. Stamford will be tricky, they are a very good team, but we have the belief that we can do it.
I’d like to think that Tuesday’s win was for the unreal effort of the fans who made the journey. I don’t believe there were any highlights, so only those who were there will have that memory of what happened and now we can move on together to the next round.’
The game against Stamford takes place on Saturday 26th October and the Travel Club will be running a coach which is fully expected to fill up quickly.
Supporters keen to make the journey to Lincolnshire are encouraged to contact Ken Leese on 07935 723290.