Sam Hallett scored twice to seal a remarkable comeback to lead Louth Town reserves to the Challenge Cup semi finals against Grimsby Borough Reserves.
This was an unforgettable game of football won by the more determined team. Louth showed character to come back from 2-0 down in the second half before more drama followed.
Jack Burton opted for a slightly cautious variation of the 4-4-2 formation for Town. Richard Madge was at the spearhead of the attack with Danny Marshall playing just behind him.
The opening 45 minutes left a lot to be desired. Louth failed to create any clear cut chances and were trailing at the interval. Grimsby broke the deadlock with half an hour played and nearly scored again when a long range effort narrowly missed.
Early in the second half Ben Smith pulled off a great fingertip save. Unfortunately he was powerless to prevent another player tapping in the rebound from twoyards. At that stage in looked grim, but on 62 minutes Louth were handed a lifeline.
Richard Madge rounded the goalkeeper who dragged him down as he was about to tap into an empty net. The goalkeeper was extremely fortunate to escape with only a yellow card. Hallett took the resulting penalty kick and made no mistake sending the goalkeeper the wrong way. 2-1 and game on.
It did not take long for Louth to equalize through Mark Cody. Alex Carter whipped in a corner from the right and Cody powered his header into the far corner. The new signing had chosen a good time to get his first goal for the club.
In the 83rd minute Madge put his side in front for the first time. Substitute Tom Cope who had only been on the pitch for a few minutes surged into the box and squared across goal. Madge fired the ball home and it looked like the comeback was complete – until Grimsby got back on level terms.
A player delivered a cross that was volleyed in to make it 3-3. Tom Cope set up another goal scoring opportunity in stoppage time and Carter failed to convert. This meant extra time was required to decide the winner.
In the first period of extra time Hallett netted his second of the afternoon. Cody picked out Hallett and he drilled into the roof of the net. It was an emphatic finish by the skipper and Louth managed to hang on until the end – just about!
Grimsby poured forward in the final period of extra time in search of an equalizing goal. Louth needed to defend for their lives and made some crucial interventions. Luke Burton got in the way of a goal bound shot before Dave Pawson made an important challenge inside the 6 yard box. Dave Pawson also blocked a thunderous drive that may well have flown in.
Carter almost capitalised on a mistake to put the result beyond doubt. A defender gave the ball away to Carter on the edge of the box. The young winger proceeded to hit the outside of the right post.
Right at the very end Smith made a brilliant double save to deny the visitors. First Smith dived across his line to keep a header out of the top left corner. Next he reacted in a split second to deflect the rebound wide. It was tremendous goalkeeping and the final whistle was blown immediately afterwards.
Louth had won an epic battle and played out of their skins for 120 minutes. Their reward was a place in the semi finals of the Challenge Cup. Every player performed well – especially Hallett who was named man of the match.
The Louth manager, Jack Burton, was satisfied. He said: “We failed to get going in the first half and chose to neglect our usual possession style football. In the second half I felt the lads really took on board what was said at half time and we turned the game back in our favour. A few individuals had an outstanding game, skipper Sam Hallett, Mark Cody and Ben Smith our keeper, but more importantly we looked and played like a team. A good cup win is something we are taking very seriously this season and the lads showed today that we have every chance of winning it.”
The White Wolves next fixture is on Saturday, October 27 when Nettleham are the visitors to Park Avenue.