**COUNTESTHORPE WINDOWS 1-2 FROLESWORTH UNITED**
FROLESWORTH United put last week’s shock Billy Walton Cup exit behind them and survived a Halloween scare on Sunday morning, with a dramatic late winner at Warwick Avenue in extremely difficult circumstances.
Captain Joe Cook notched his sixth goal of the campaign five minutes from time to ensure the Rabbits’ passage safely through to the last 16 of the F.A Intermediate Cup for the first time in their short history.
Ben Harris returned from Nottingham after last week’s absence, but Jordan Halford remained with co-owners Glynde Albion for their 65-mile round trip to Marle Place Wanderers in the Sussex F.A County Challenge Trophy, and the former made four changes from the side that slipped to an embarrassing cup exit last week.
Jack Rudman replaced the injured Josh Baines at left-back, whilst in-form youngsters Greg Garner and Steven Bottom returned to complete a four-man midfield, with the front line comprising of Miles Splevings and reinstated skipper Cook.
Martin Finnigan deputised on the left after Jack Sutherland, Sam Palmer and Adam Tester became the latest Frolesworth stars to let their team-mates down prior to kick off and the Clarets arrived in Whetstone late after a difficult trip from the Warren.
But the visitors started brightly in severe weather conditions and it was the Swindon-born wide man who should have put United in front after 19 minutes. He was the first to react after Splevings’ shot was parried but he somehow missed with the goal at his mercy.
Finnigan was again instrumental moments later and went close once more after a neat exchange with Pantony on the left, whilst on the other flank, the returning Garner showcased his talents with a trademark-jinking run before he was hauled down.
The lively Splevings then tested the reflexes of the Windows’ keeper with an excellent snap-shot from the right just after the half hour mark, and was again foiled by the hosts’ stopper when put clean through one-on-one by the ever-present Pantony.
However, the Rabbits couldn’t assert their dominance and the tie remained deadlocked until the balance tipped in favour of the Alliance League Division One side shortly after the interval, when they deservedly took the lead in the 55th minute.
Pantony released Cook with a searching pass down the left and the captain, revitalised after being handed back the armband, sent a sumptuous cross across the face of goal for the onrushing Garner to dispatch a neat volley from close-range.
The home side then finally awoke and Luke Evans had to be alert to palm their first attempt on goal away for a corner on the hour mark, before Rudman had the big keeper to thank for diverting his deflection and preventing an own goal.
But Countesthorpe were deservedly level midway through the second period and it was cruel on Evans, who couldn’t keep out the header.
Harris was then forced to withdraw Mark James, who was replaced by Matt Pell with the vastly improving Joe Wilson moving inside to partner Jack Boulton at the heart of the defence and the change galvanised the visitors, who got their noses in front largely against the run of play with just five minutes left on the clock.
Cook was disciplined after inexplicably missing the home defeat to Sparta Moshdock by being dropped to the bench in the impressive win against Premier Division side Glenfield Town, and after scoring in last week’s dismal defeat, the script was written for the striker to be the hero.
It was Pantony again who released the skilful forward on the left and the former Coventry City man smashed a vicious low drive into the twine much to the delight of the travelling Claret army.
Harris’ side then effectively shut-up-shop for the remaining five minutes plus stoppage time and completed a thoroughly professional, smash and grab away victory to ensure they will be in the hat for the next round alongside local rivals Gilmorton and the Balloonatics.
Frolesworth demonstrated their togetherness and character in very blustery and damp conditions and sent out the perfect response to manager Harris, as they look to get their promotion challenge back on track with the trip to Cleansing Services next week.
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