Ash Flynn was the hero – closely followed by keeper Harry Stead – as Golcar United won a dramatic penalty shoot-out to set up a red hot promotion decider in Cumbria on Easter Saturday.
The Weavers did it the hard way to edge out AFC Blackpool in the North West Counties Division One North play-off semi-final at the Skye Direct Stadium.
Buddy Cox and Flynn put Golcar 2-0 up at the break and the home side were cruising. However, Blackpool pegged them back to 2-2 sending the game into extra-time.
Golcar went down to 10 men when Leon Henry was sent off for his second bookable offence but the Weavers hung on meaning the tie had to be decided on penalties.
Stead pulled off two great penalty saves, Golcar scored all theirs and it was left it to Flynn to spark the celebrations as he coolly slotted home the decisive spotkick to make it 4-2 on penalties.
As the fans let off green smoke flares in celebration, Flynn wheeled away through the smoke to start the party in the stands.
Golcar now face a long away trip to Barrow-in-Furness to face the team that finished second in the league, Holker Old Boys on Saturday April 16 (3.00) for the chance to move up to step 5 in the football pyramid.
Watch our video of the dramatic penalty shoot-out
Golcar boss Ash Connor couldn’t stop smiling after the game and said: “Those celebrations at the end were just fantastic. You could see what it meant to everyone, the character and determination in this team is amazing.
“We went 2-0 up and let the lead slip, then had to deal with the sending off too. It was backs against the wall for all of extra-time and then penalties.
“I said to the lads at half-time the next goal would be crucial especially with it being 2-0. They got a penalty and then the second goal. We had to defend a lot in extra time, which we did well.
“As it went to penalties I said to the lads that we had come so far this season, let’s finish the job off. We hadn’t practised penalties, we picked our five takers and four of them did the job. Harry made two great saves in the shoot-out and made some key saves in the game too so it was a huge effort from him.”
Connor praised the Golcar fans for playing a vital part in the victory and added: “This is why we turned semi-professional for days like today, to play these games in front of these magnificent fans. They again played a big part today and got us over the line.”
AFC Blackpool came out of the traps quick with Josh Winder taking an early strike from close range. Golcar keeper Stead was equal to it as he made the first crucial save of the afternoon.
There were various half chances for both sides but then in the 15th minute United took the lead. A long ball played forward was chased by Golcar striker Cox who showed great speed and strength to shrug off the AFC Blackpool defender before tucking the ball past Dan Hall in the Mechanics’ net to make it 1-0.
The Weavers took a 2-0 lead into half-time when Flynn managed to poke home from close range after a looping high ball wasn’t cleared in the box.
With nothing to lose the visitors came out swinging for the second half. They pressed Golcar back into their own half. The pressure became all too much as the visitors were awarded a soft penalty in the 58th minute when Ryan White was fouled in the Golcar area. Ben Duffield slotted home the spotkick to make it 2-1 to Golcar.
Blackpool grabbed an equaliser on the 85th minute when Joe Robinson’s shot slid past Stead in the Golcar goal.
The game then went to extra time and it couldn’t have started any worse for United as left-back Henry was dismissed for a late challenge having already being booked. Fitness told on the Blackpool players as several went down with cramp.
It was down to penalties and someone had to be a hero and someone had to be a villain.
The penalties were as follows.
Golcar = G
Blackpool = B
B, Duffield ✅️
G, Stocker ✅️
B, McLean ✅️
G, Tayo ✅️
B, Morris ❌️
G, Naidole ✅️
B, Winder ❌️
G, Flynn ✅️
Holker Old Boys beat fifth-placed Nelson 2-1 in the other semi-final match.
Gallery of images by: SEAN DOYLE