FA Cup fever hit Retford United on Saturday as the Extra Preliminary Round came to Cannon Park with an unknown quantity of Bardon Hill Sports of the East Midlands Counties League the visitors.
No-one could have predicted how the game ended in such dramatic fashion, but it shouldn’t have got to that scenario as Retford missed a host of chances to ensure they made it through to the next round.
Retford were the stronger of the sides in the first half, another corner ball in was dropped by the keeper but before a Retford player could react, was cleared up field by the visitors into the path of Liam Hebberd who made a break only to lose his opportunity as he clipped Dan Smith and gave away a needless free kick while his side were on the offensive.
Kyle Hadley picked up a long goal kick from Jack Ward, cutting inside to shoot, this time he was off target.
Adam Scott managed to get in a cross, Jake Stannard did well to control and play to Craig Aspinall, but his effort was tame and rolled to the keeper.
Hadley was causing problems on the right flank, advantage was played by the referee after he started to move forward and was challenged by Martin Staley, he stayed on his feet to find Scott who was challenged unfairly five yards outside the area to win a free kick.
The ball was played in, despite the keeper flapping at the ball, somehow Bardon Hill managed to clear.
The keeper was called into action again moments later, his block stopped Gav Cooper finding the target, then he managed a good one handed save from the follow up effort.
Hadley tried again from the right, his cross in almost found Graeme Severn who rose with the keeper, but the ball was collected by Aaron Harris and another chance went begging.
Aspinall played the ball forward for Hadley who took the ball in his stride, his strike took a deflection for a corner, the ball sent in rob Sanderson jumping to win the ball, his header just wide.
Against the run of play, on 38 minutes, Bardon Hill took the lead, a low drive from the left crept past Ward from a tight angle with Lewis Duffield turning to celebrate scoring for his side.
More chances for Retford fell to Cooper, Scott and Stannard but the goal couldn’t be found, much to the frustration of the home crowd, and the sides went in with Bardon Hill having one foot in the next round.
The second half, Retford had to push for a goal, Severn did well to thread the ball through under pressure from Ben Weir, the ball sent across the face of goal, with the keeper nowhere, Cooper somehow missed the target and fired wide.
Danny Frost was introduced to the game on 56 minutes and his fresh legs almost made an instant impact, his shot on the turn was tipped away for a corner kick.
Bardon Hill wanted to put the game beyond doubt, Hebberd’s effort forcing Ward at full stretch to put the ball past the post.
James O’Neill knocked the ball back for Frost to have another shot, then Frost again was involved as a back pass in the box gave United a free kick not far from the penalty spot, but the free kick was charged down by the Bardon Hill wall.
On 80 minutes, Retford were level, Shaun Nesbitt, a second half replacement for Adam Scott found the net after good work between Frost and O’Neill to set up a thumping shot from Nesbitt to pull United back into the game.
Retford continued to apply the pressure, Nesbitt’s run found Severn whose cross found Frost, his header ran straight to the keeper.
Frost then shook himself clear of the Bardon Hill defence, with only the keeper between him and the goal, somehow allowed the keeper to get a touch and push the ball away.
The game looked to be going to a replay with Bardon Hill tightening up at the back to take the game back to their ground, with three minutes of stoppage time played, the ground erupted when a shot from O’Neill looked to be going wide, Frost managing to get a touch to push the ball over the line and seal a dramatic winner in a frustrating game, setting up a trip to Evo-Stik side Hucknall Town in the next round.
With the players celebrating, and only seconds left to play, there was still more drama as the Management Team including former Ollerton Town Manager Don Gething of Bardon Hill were sent from the bench after abusing the officials, but it was all over and Retford progress.
United face another home game against Parkgate FC next Saturday (3pm) followed by the first away trip of the season on Tuesday 21st against Long Eaton United before the much anticipated FA Cup tie against Hucknall Town (away) on Saturday 25th August where the club will be meeting several familiar faces.