Barnoldswick Town successfully defended the Morrison Cup at Settle, but it required penalties after a 2-2 draw to see off Ingleton of the North Lancashire League Premier Division.
It was the cup holders who took the lead after just eight minutes when the Ingleton keeper Graham Kellett blocked man of the match Joe Brown’s surging run into the penalty area, but was then unable to prevent James Butler from finding the net as the ball ran loose.
For 15 minutes it appeared that this could be a routine and relatively easy night for Town, but indecisive defensive work after 16 minutes allowed the Ingleton striker Mark Dobson to pounce and smash the ball past the young Town goalkeeper Dominic Walker from virtually point blank range.
The indecision spread through the Town defence, and uncharacteristic errors became commonplace in the next phase of play, despite the veteran defender Matthew Holt’s valiant attempts to hold the defence together.
It was during this period of pressure from the hard-working and determined Ingleton players that they took the lead with a speculative 30-yard lob from Alex Hartley which took everyone by surprise and gave Ingleton a 2-1 advantage on 18 minutes.
Ingleton worked ferociously hard to protect their lead and only the linesman’s flag prevented them from going further ahead early in the second half.
Town never really played as well as they can, either individually or collectively, and as time was ebbing away, the substitutes James Hughes and Teal Amos were brought into play with a quarter of the game remaining.
This finally saw the creation of some real sustained pressure on the Ingleton goal, and it was the ever-improving Hughes who finally got his team level following a goalmouth melee, amid repeated desperate attempts by the Ingleton defenders to clear their lines.
The equaliser came in the 90th minute and broke the hearts of the long-time leaders, who must have thought they had done enough to take the cup back up the A65.
The referee ended normal time almost immediately after the equaliser, and for the second time in this year’s competition, the relieved holders were faced with a penalty shoot out to retain their beloved Morrison Cup.
The third Ingleton penalty taker put his attempt in to the River Ribble, and it then just required Bailey Coates, James Butler and finally ace marksman Jordan Slade to hold their nerve, for the drama to be completed and the Morrison Cup returned to Barnoldswick.
Ingleton conducted themselves superbly throughout the game in front of a large and vociferous crowd, and were just 30 seconds away from victory in the end.
Town did not put in a five-star performance and will know they can play better than this, but nonetheless they got the job done by the skin of their teeth eventually.
Mention should be made of Town’s young goalkeeper Walker, who, with limited experience at this level, kept his nerve throughout the game and during the penalty shoot out.