Worksop Town’s road to Wembley began with a professional performance and a 3-0 victory at Long Eaton United.
Their FA Vase exit was Long Eaton’s second defeat of the season, as Tigers made the Midlands League Premier side look ordinary for long periods.
The afternoon began with some big news for visiting supporters, in the shape of giant goalkeeper Jon Stewart – returning to the club after a recent release by Alfreton.
It looks likely that Ben Gathercole will sign for Shaw Lane Aquaforce, and in Stewart, Worksop have a formidable and highly rated replacement – if they can keep him.
Tigers won an early corner, the Conor Sellars - Luke Shiels combination almost bringing joy again, the centre-half just off target with his header.
After a scrappy first 13 minutes Sellars burst into life with a give-and-go with Mitch Husbands, getting to the near post but failing to trouble keeper Josh O’Brien.
Connor Smythe had a busy couple of minutes, flying into a perfect challenge to halt a Long Eaton attack, then showing a couple of lovely touches to put the ball into the hosts’ box.
He then got to the ball before Brad Wells and the man in blue saw yellow for his late challenge.
Long Eaton’s main threat came through set-pieces, afforded far too many free-kicks around the box, Wells producing the best effort on 33 minutes, forcing a good save from Stewart.
A half chance for Tigers, through Tom Elliott, was blocked and cleared and all of a sudden Long Eaton were on the counter, only Tom Burgin’s vital intervention preventing a goal.
A second later Shaun Rickford should have opened the scoring but his point blank header was palmed onto the bar by Stewart.
Smythe, who had been excellent throughout the first half, took a booking for a very cynical trip on Tom Cooper-Richards who was breaking at pace.
After a half-time rollicking from Mark Shaw, Tigers came quickly out of the traps for the second period and hit the lead after just two minutes.
Dre Johnson managed to go round the last defender and brought a save from O’Brien, but Elliott was following up and slid in to score the opener.
Long Eaton began to look like a frustrated side, unable to turn possession into chances, and they were handed a lesson in clinical finishing when Elliott’s pass was flicked on by Husbands and Johnson raced in to shoot home under the keeper.
Only Dominic Allen’s last gasp challenge kept Long Eaton’s FA Vase hopes alive, Alex Pursehouse – who this week turned down a move to Bradford Park Avenue – putting a great ball across the box, O’Brien failing to gather and Johnson looking to poke home before the full-back blocked.
At the other end, Tom Burgin was in the right place to clear off the line when the hosts looked set to pull one back.
Substitute Chris Whincop was the man to make the game safe for Worksop, Husbands releasing another replacement Jack Waddle, and his sliderule cross was first knocked onto the post by Whincop, and then chested into the net.
In a match full of solid performances, anyone on the sidelines would be hardpressed to find a Man of the Match – but in skipper Jake Scott Tigers had a player who didn’t miss a beat for 90 minutes.
Stewart and his back five all had excellent games, Smythe in particular putting in his best 45 minutes as a Tiger, and Shaw will be delighted that his men are in the next round of the Vase in such comfortable style.
Long Eaton: Josh O’Brien, David Boafo, Dominic Allen, Jermain Hollis, Ross Parker, Gerome Palmer, Tom Cooper-Richards, Adam Corrighan (Ben Gowing 50), Shaun Rickford (Lee Fell 58), Ben Watkis (Theo Smith 64), Brad Wells. Not used: Adam Burton, Elliott King.
Worksop: Stewart 7, Pursehouse 8, Smythe 8 (Wafula 70), Burgin 8, Liversidge 7, Shiels 8, Sellars 7 (Waddle 84), SCOTT 8, Husbands 7, Johnson 7 (Whincop 78), Elliott 8. Not used: Hawkins, Waddle, Jordan.
Referee: Chris Hunter. Assistants: Matthew Law, Jamie Smith.
Goalscorers: Elliott 47, Johnson 64, Whincop 86
Yellows: Wells 20; Smythe 44