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Heath Hayes 2 Dudley Sports 1 AET
SUBSTITUTE Tom Green struck four minutes from the end of extra-time to knock Dudley Sports out of the FA Cup.
The striker cut inside before slamming a shot past Sports keeper Sam Pearson to seal a captivating extra-preliminary round replay.
Earlier, Lee Smith looked to have secured victory for the hosts in normal time but Josh Taylor grabbed a deserved late equaliser for Sports.
Scott Sumner had a shot cleared off the line with the final kick of extra-time as the visitors just failed to force a penalty shoot-out.
The midfielder lay on the ground for a good minute after the referee’s final whistle, no doubt coming to terms with an agonising finish to a frustrating evening.
But for all the praise Sports deserve for their effort and commitment against a side a division higher than them, there was still the lingering sense of a big opportunity missed.
Put simply, on this evidence Heath Hayes are not a particularly good side and Sports will feel they let them off the hook twice. First in Saturday’s initial encounter when they lead 2-0 only to draw 2-2 and then again tonight, where but for the closing five minutes of the first half and the opening period of extra-time they largely kept the hosts in check.
Despite a bright opening from the home side it was Sports who fashioned the first half-chance when Taylor just failed to get on the end of a Matt Hearsey cross with diminutive keeper Luke Jones, a left-back forced to play in goal due to the absence of regular stopper Adam Lane, all at sea.
Sports’ failure to frequently test Jones will have frustrated joint bosses Tony Gore and Paul Blakely but at the other end Pearson too was largely untroubled in the opening exchanges.
When the visitors were caught napping by Craig Hancox’s quick free-kick, Karl Wallis could only shoot tamely straight at the visiting keeper.
Pearson’ first real action saw him save smartly from Steven Allen after he had weakly punched a cross straight to the Heath Haye’s winger.
But Sports were showing plenty of endeavour too. Craig Flash wasted a couple of half chances with poor finishing, while Hearsey almost beat Jones to an underhit backpass only for the keeper to just get enough on the ball to prevent a shot at goal.
The hosts still looked rickety going forward but in the final five minutes of the half created three golden chances to take the lead, only to spurn them all.
First Peter Bromley beat the offside trap to go clear but his shot was straight at Pearson and easily saved, before Hancox fired well over the bar after regaining possession.
Worse was to follow from Allen as he dragged an effort horribly wide with the goal at his mercy. Wallis then headed straight at Pearson from six yards out after meeting an inviting Hancox cross.
Adam Wood and Wallis both went close for the hosts as they looked to continue the momentum early in the second period but Sports were still a threat themselves.
Taylor just failed to make a clean connection after beating Jones to a deflected Flash shot, before Hearsey took too long to shoot when he was played in by Conor Cole’s delightful through ball.
The wasted chances looked like being costly when the hosts took the lead with a goal which did little to flatter the visiting defence. A free-kick from the halfway line was struck flat by James Parsonage but the Sports defence failed to clear, allowing Smith to slam the ball past Pearson and into the bottom corner at the second time of asking.
To their credit, Sports stayed strong in spirit and enjoyed the best of the few chances which arrived at either end in the final half hour.
Cole struck a free-kick over the bar and Oliver Butler hit the side netting. But there was continued frustration from the sidelines as good moves broke down thanks to crosses which failed to beat the first man.
Then, with four minutes left, Sports suddenly got it right and equalised thanks to the move of the match. Craig Stevens sprayed a ball out wide to Sumner and his whipped in cross was steered past Jones by a sliding Taylor from six yards out.
Stunned, the hosts came out firing at the start of extra-time and Wallis should have restored their advantage in the first 30 seconds but planted a free header wide. Adam Robinson and Allen were also just off target with good efforts, while Sports substitute Luke Astley did brilliantly to deny Green a shot at goal with a last-ditch saving tackle.
The visitors had more scrambling to do early in the second period as a Brad Grice header nearly found its way through a mass of defenders.
But with six minutes to go Sports thought they might have snatched it when Hearsey’s header from Stevens corner was cleared off the line.
Within two minutes Green had landed a killer blow. The hosts broke quickly after Taylor was caught offside to curtail a Sports attack and he cut inside his man before blasting a low effort past Pearson and inside the near post.
There was still time for more drama as with the whistle on the referee’s lips, Sports finally put Jones under some sustained pressure but when he could only punch as far as Sumner, the midfielder’s low drive from ten yards out was blocked by a covering defender.
HEATH HAYES: Jones, Parsonage, Robinson, Smith, Phillips, Wood, Allen (Moore 115), Grice, Wallis (Colson 101), Bromley (Green 60), Hancox Sub not used: Littler.
Goals: Smith 58, Green 116.
SPORTS: Pearson, Hughes (Astley 84), Holloway, Wilkins, Walters, Cole, Hearsey, Stevens, Butler (Sumner 84), Flash (Corfield 77), Taylor J Subs not used: Taylor A, Bache, Preston.
Goal: Taylor J 86.