BARNES Gladman continued his purple patch in front of goal after his brace inspired a threadbare Frolesworth United to a comprehensive victory over Division Four leaders AFC Royal Oak at Kimcote Road on a pleasant November morning.
It took the Rabbits until the 31st minute to break the deadlock against their industrious opponents when Gladman glanced Dan Morrow's lethal corner into the far corner before Callum Wills doubled the hosts advantage after the visitors had rattled the crossbar. But in truth, there was only ever one winner as Dom Ivens ensured United's passage into the Quarter Finals after a delicate nutmeg enabled him to calmly slot his fifth goal of the campaign before Gladman's superb jinking run was followed by a thumping finish.
Jordan Halford returned to take the reigns after a three-week hiatus, which had seen his side plunder in 24 goals and concede just four in his absence. He was, however, left to deal with the absence of both of his recognised goalkeepers in Luke Evans and Andy Morris, so captain Mark James was left to fill the void in-between the stick with United's transfer bid for Oli Faulkner still pending.
There were two changes to the back-four, as Mark Baker limped out during the warm up meaning Miles Splevings dropped to right-back, with Morrow moving to the left and Nathan Bedford returned to partner man of the match Harry Shervington. This meant Cam Rhind was given a starting berth on the right-hand side of midfield, with the rest of the side otherwise unchanged from the 10-1 mauling of New Parks Estate.
United's visitors from Wigston also boasted a 100 per cent record at the Division Four summit, but their game plan was evident from the opening exchanges as an array of robust challenges greeted Halford's charges as quality remained at a premium. But after a slow start in Frolesworth colours, new signing Gladman has moved to the fore with an astonishing run of four successive hat-tricks and he continued where he left off with his 16th goal of a fruitful campaign thus far, springing off his man at the front post to glance Morrow's dangerous corner into the far corner on the half-hour mark.
It proved to be the difference as the teams went into the dressing rooms at the break and with United seeking their 11th successive win in all competitions, they soon doubled their advantage courtesy of Wills after riding their luck. Bedford had defended admirably throughout the contest, but he was almost punished for a rare mistake and the frame of James' goal was left rattling after a shot from range had United's third choice stopper scrambling.
But Wills showed the predatory instincts that have become a trademark of his to put the game beyond Oak's grasp, having been forced to lead the line after Sam Young received his marching orders in the 6-3 win over Wigston United. He had earlier squandered two decent opportunities, but he made sure the result wasn't in doubt when he burst through to slam home United's second.
And from here on, United began to move through the gears at a canter with Ivens making it 3-0 after a cheeky nutmeg enabled him to stroke into the far corner. With the last eight of the EW Foster Cup now beckoning, Gladman notched his second after slaloming his way through the visiting defence and dispatching his 17th of the season with aplomb but skipper, James, couldn't hold on to the clean sheet that his performance merited after United conceded a disappointing consolation from a set-piece in the dying embers of the contest.
However, Halford can afford to be pleased with his side's endeavour as United managed to overcome a hard-working and well-organised unit with several first-team players missing to reach the last eight of a knockout tournament for the first time since the FA Intermediate Cup in January 2011. Wigston Rangers return to Kimcote Road in seven days with a place in the last 16 of the Billy Walton Cup at stake as United aim to continue their assault on all four tournaments going into the new year.
So far, so good.