Carlton Town 2-2 Kidsgrove Athletic *4-3 pens (FA Trophy Third Qualifying Round) 30.10.21
Carlton Town qualified for the First Round proper of the FA Trophy for the first time in their history with a penalty shoot-out win against Kidsgrove Athletic at Stoke Lane.
Jack Steggles was the star of the shoot-out again, just as he had been in the win over Bedworth in the previous round, this time saving two Kidsgrove penalties meaning Carlton’s four out of four was enough to secure the win.
The spot kicks followed a feisty 2-2 draw with both sides having spells of control in a hard-fought contest.
Carlton managers Tommy Brookbanks and Mark Harvey made two changes to the side which had won at Soham last time out. Steggles replaced the ineligible Kieran Preston and Toby Moore came in for Tyler Johal, with Dan Brown slotting in a left back.
Kidsgrove featured the goal machine that is Anthony Malbon in their starting eleven.
On a pitch that had dealt with a morning deluge really well, the Millers started much the better and should have been a couple of goals ahead in the opening 20 minutes.
Khyle Sargent saw an early effort saved comfortably by Ryan Brown before Tyler Blake hit a shot just over the bar after some fine control.
On nie minutes Martin Ball played a wonderful cross-field pass to Niall Davie who beat Oliver Hickman before crossing to Blake who couldn’t get his shot away.
Moments later a Davie corner found Ball unmarked and his header beat Brown but was cleared off the line by a Kidsgrove defender.
Still Carlton came forward and when Hickman’s short backpass was latched onto by Kieran Knight, the forward looked to have taken the ball around Ryan Brown. But just as Knight looked set to score, Brown stretched out a hand and made an excellent recovery save to grab the ball of Knight’s foot.
Next it was Nat Watson’s turn to run at the Grove defence and his resulting shot was once again saved by Ryan Brown.
Knight forced another Carlton corner before Kidsgrove had their first effort on goal, with John Johnston’s snap shot drawing a fine save from Steggles.
As the half wore on Carlton’s play became less fluid and Kidsgrove looked more of a threat, albeit the Carlton defence was dealing with the challenge relatively comfortably.
Knight just failed to get onto the end of a lovely through ball by Tom Maddison but then Malbon had his first chance of the game, running onto a bouncing ball and firing just wide of target.
Ball was then on hand to clear a dangerous cross from the lively Will Wheldon as Kidsgrove started to get the upper hand.
With the game in the final minute of the first half Carlton took the lead. A pinpoint clearance from Steggles found Davie on the left. He won a corner which was cleared initially to Sargent. His shot ricocheted into the path of Blake who showed true striker’s instinct to rifle the ball past Ryan Brown with Grove appealing in vain for an offside flag.
There were two minutes of added time to play in the half and that was enough for Kidsgrove to level. They earned a free kick in the Carlton half straight from the kick off. The delivery led to a corner which wasn’t cleared and when the ball was played back into the left hand side of the penalty area Kieran Brown’s looping header sailed over Steggles into the corner of the net.
Carlton brought on Aaron Opoku at half time and he made a difference immediately as Carlton regained the lead two minutes into the second half. Opoku dispossessed Spencer Gunnell on the right and hit a powerful angled drive that was well saved by Ryan Brown. The rebound fell to Watson who showed great skill to dink inside Gunnell and Lewis Bergin and fire past the goalkeeper from 15 yards.
Carlton were back in the ascendancy and Sargent hit a 25 yarder just over after another lovely pass from Maddison.
Kidsgrove though kept on battling and they got their second equaliser on the hour. Lawrence Gorman was booked for a foul on Wheldon on the Kidsgrove left just over the half way line. The deep cross that followed was palmed away for a corner by Steggles. When the delivery came in the goalkeeper made an excellent save from a close range shot but the rebound fell to Malbon who forced the ball over the line despite what seemed to be a goal line clearance from Moore. The linesman and referee awarded the goal immediately to the delight of the visiting support.
Carlton replaced Gorman with Johal shortly afterwards, no doubt concerned about the risk of a second yellow, and moved Dan Brown to right back.
Opoku then ran at the Grove defence and it took three defenders to eventually concede just a corner, but by now the game had become a tetchy, scrappy affair with both sides conscious of the importance of the next goal.
With just over a quarter hour remaining Carlton brought on Louis Czerwak to try and break the deadlock and shortly afterwards the Millers were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box after Opoku was fouled.
Watson hit the free kick straight into the wall with Gunnell falling prostrate to the ground. Sargent was about to play the ball back into the area when the referee stopped the game to allow Gunnell treatment.
When play restarted Kidsgrove were given the drop ball to knock back to the Millesr but instead they attacked down the left, earning themselves a corner much to the displeasure of the Millers. The delivery was dangerous and Malbon and Kieran Brown both hit shots which drew a terrific double save from Steggles as Carlton survived.
Czerwak then attacked down the right and cut inside before hitting a fierce drive that drew a fine save from Ryan Brown. The resulting corner was misjudged by the goalkeeper who came to claim it but missed it completely leaving Opoku to head at goal only for a Grove defender once again to clear off the line. The loose ball was there to be scored but no Carlton player was able to react quickly enough and the chance was gone.
Grove finished the game on top with a series of corners that Carlton struggled to clear, but the defence held firm to send the game into a penalty shoot out.
Kidsgrove went first and Jake Lovatt, Wheldon and Danny Cocks all converted, as did Maddison, Blake and Watson for Carlton.
With the score at 3-3 up stepped Alex Morris but his penalty was saved excellently by Steggles, diving to his left and Opoku then struck his into the top corner to give the Millers the lead.
Kieran Brown had to score to keep the game alive but Steggles saved his effort as well to send the Millers players and supporters into raptures and into the First Round proper for the first time ever.
Carlton Town: Steggles, Gorman (Johal 66), Moore, Ball, Brown, Maddison, Watson, Sargent, Knight (Opoku 46), Blake, Davie (Czerwak 74).
*Article provided by Sky Blue Miller.
*Main image @CTFC1904 Carlton are through to the next stages after a dramatic shootout win.