Lancaster City are through to the final of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy after a dramatic penalty shoot-out win over Padiham.
A thrilling cup tie ended 3-3 before the North West Counties Premier Division side missed all four of their spot kicks, Ricky Mercer and Craig Carney converting from 12 yards for City to set up a final with Chorley at Bolton Wanderers’ Macron Stadium.
It had been a crazy night at the County Ground in Leyland, Padiham leading three times only to be pegged back.
The Storks’ goals were all fine strikes, Chris Turner scoring two and Sean Cookson one, with Zach Clark, Craig Carney and Jacob Gregory, after Ryan Winder had missed a stoppage time penalty, on target for the Dolly Blues.
City looked bright going forwards early on, Tom Kilifin dragging the first chance wide from the edge of the area.
The Blues were behind on 11 minutes though. Turner had time to shoot in the area and his well-struck left-footed shot went in off Mike Hale’s near post.
Phli Brown’s side nearly hit straight back with Gregory’s shot sailing over the bar and Carney’s driven effort being well held by former City stopper Mike Donlon.
Slowly but surely City began to get a firm grip on the game and they were level on 32 minutes.
Zach Clark had only just entered the field in place of the injured Rob Henry but when the ball broke to him in the area he kept his cool before firing low beyond Donlon.
As good as the Blues looked in attack they were still unconvincing defensively in the absence of captain Neil Marshall, Kieron Pickup failing to test Hale five minutes before the break when he had time to shoot from 15 yards.
Padiham didn’t spurn their next chance however and were back in front on 42 minutes.
A Gregory slip allowed The Storks to break and Cookson should probably have squared the ball when in on the left side of the area but instead fired an unstoppable shot across Hale and in.
Chances came at both ends at the start of the second half with Carney and Kilifin coming close either side of Andrew Hill’s low shot for Padiham.
Winder then couldn’t make contact with a free header and Zach Clark was denied by a last-ditch tackle as the Blues huffed and puffed against a tiring Padiham without reward.
It was increasingly one-way traffic, Donlon equal to Winder’s shot from distance 15 minutes from time.
Padiham’s resistance was finally broken 12 minutes from time, Carney running across the face of the area before his deflected shot beat the outstretched hand of Donlon.
But the lead lasted just five minutes with Turner striding forward to fire home Padiham’s third from 25 yards on 83 minutes.
There was still one moment of drama to come in normal time as Zach Clark raced clear only to be felled by Donlon in the area.
With the Padiham stopper booked, Winder stepped up only to see his effort helped onto the bar. Gregory was on hand however to fire in the rebound and take the game to penalties.
Despite Winder missing from the spot for a second time in the shoot-out, Padiham couldn’t beat Hale and will wonder how they lost a cup tie that will live long in the memory.
Lancaster City: Hale, Henry (Z Clark 31), Mercer (capt), Davis, G Clark, Watson (Cummings 88), Akrigg, Carney, Winder, Gregory, Kilifin (Carlton 62). Subs not used: Rodgerson, Shearwood.
Booked: Z Clark
Padiham: Donlon, Fitzgerald, Bamber, Cross, Parkes (capt), Fowler, Hill (Murphy 70), Turner, Cookson, Pickup, Emmott (Scott 75). Subs not used: Botham, Townsend, Farrow.
Booked: Bamber, Donlon
Referee: Richard Holmes