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Spot-on Earlswood Town sink Inkberrow to progress into next round of Les James Challenge Cup

Earlswood Town 2-2 Inkberrow (Earlswood won 4-2 on penalties)

Midland League, Les James Challenge Cup, First Round

RESILIENT Earlswood Town staged a stellar second-half comeback before prevailing on penalties to progress into the second round of the Midland League Les James Challenge Cup at the expense of Inkberrow.

First-half goals from Nathan Davies and George Thomas looked to have set the visitors on their way to victory at The Pavilions.

However, the Earls would not give up that easily and with 12 minutes left Thomas Kinsey reduced the arrears to set up an exciting finish.

And so that proved as right on the cusp of the 90th minute, Louis Bridges confidently stroked home from a matter of yards out to send the tie to spot-kicks.

Bridges, John Palmer and Kinsey all fired in from 12 yards and with Inkberrow's Tom Emblem and Thomas failing to find the back of the net, it was left for Matt Pemberton to stroke home the winner to secure a 4-2 shoot-out success for the Earls.

Victory was the perfect tonic to the disappointing defeat to AFC Coventry Rangers in the Birmingham Vase just a week ago and there were five changes to the Earlswood side from that disappointing day.

Tom Day, Leadun Dunlevy, Joel Hughes, Bridges and Daniel Smith came in for Dan Farr, Ryan Froggatt, Harry Street, Michael Bridges and Kinsey.

And it was the Earls who had the first big chance of the contest in the eight minute when Dunlevy played in Hughes but he could only blaze over after neatly cutting inside onto his left foot.

From there on in the visitors started to take control of proceedings, especially as the Earls repeatedly gave possession away cheaply and often found themselves pumping the ball long to an isolated Bridges.

Chris Dyson was pulling the strings for Inkberrow and following a succession of corners from the impressive No. 8, Davies got across his man at the near post to glance his side ahead in the 36th minute.

A dominant period of pressure just before the break reaped its rewards for the visiting side, as another devilish Dyson corner caused panic amongst the Earls defence and after a spot of pinball, Thomas managed to force the ball over the line for 2-0.

Palmer and Kinsey came on for the Earls after the break and their introduction changed the course of the game in Earlswood's favour.

The duo were causing all sorts of problems for Inkberrow who were lucky not to have seen their lead halved on a number of occasions inside the first ten minutes of the second period.

A closed-down clearance ended with Bridges lashing a first-time volley wide of the mark, before a deep free-kick from Palmer was headed goalwards by player-manager Tom Reynolds but goalkeeper Max Court was on hand to make a crucial stop.

Despite being second-best after the interval, Inkberrow were always a threat on the break and George Robbins wasted a good opportunity to restore his side's two-goal lead on the hour mark.

The left-back did well to hold off a challenge on the near side and he danced his way through the Earls defence like the proverbial hot knife through butter and into the area, where he could only lash horribly off-target.

Immediately up the other end Kinsey watched an effort blocked by the feet of Court and the rebound was put over by Palmer.

The Earls, though, kept on pushing and in the 78th minute they got what they deserved, as Palmer's in-swinging corner was headed in by Kinsey.

Reynolds' men continued to plug away and right at the death they completed the comeback.

After a good use of advantage by the referee, Palmer found himself in some space on the left-hand side and his cross into the box was met by Bridges, who had all the time in the world to pick his spot and send the tie to penalties.

Inkberrow were first up and Jay Higgins-Pugsley was successful from 12 yards out, with Bridges making it 1-1 with a confident spot-kick.

Emblem then saw his effort cannon off the underside of the bar and up stepped Palmer to put the Earls in front.

Thomas had his shot saved down low by Day and when Kinsey stroked his penalty home for 3-1, the pressure was on Jamie Bralee not to miss.

He converted but it was to no avail as Pemberton showed nerves of steel to send the Earls into the next round.

EARLSWOOD TOWN: Tom Day, Tom Millard, Joe Tobin, James Wrightm Tom Reynolds, Reece Rawlings, Archie Spittle-McGuire (John Palmer h/t), Leadun Dunlevy (Matt Pemberton 85), Joel Hughes (Thomas Kinsey h/t), Louis Bridges, Daniel Smith (Jon Hamer 82). Unused sub: Brad Littlehales.

INKBERROW: Max Court, George Skelton (Jamie Bralee 67), George Robbins, Tom Emblem, Callum Davies, Callum Cook, Jay Higgins-Pugsley, Chris Dyson Josh Attwood (82), Nathan Davies, George Thomas, Ben Thomas. Unused subs: Ade McNally, Ceri Thomas, Chris Parish.

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