JACK Boulton bundled home another crucial late goal to keep the Rabbits' promotion hopes alive as Frolesworth United and local rivals Dunton & Broughton Rangers served up another 10-goal thriller, but this time it was the visitors who clinched a precious three points in swashbuckling rain and squalling winds at Station Road.
The centre-half, who has made a name for himself after late strikes against Leicester Academicals and Horse last season, upheld his fine reputation by smashing home an 86th minute goal to spark scenes of sheer jubilation as the Rabbits once again fought back from behind.
Sam Young added a sixth in the dying seconds to give United breathing space, after winger Miles Splevings had once again started the comeback with the equaliser nine minutes from time. A brace from striker Joe Cook, his 17th and 18th goals of the season and another from Young had earlier given the visitors a deserved half-time lead, but the hosts hit back to lead courtesy of Jarrad Pickering's delightful lob over Sam Green.
But just when it looked like the Rabbits' hopes of promotion would finally be extinguished, they produced another stirring fight back to move into the third and final promotion place with just one game to play.
Manager Ben Harris must now hope that his side beat newly-crowned crowned champions Star & Garter in their final league game at Dunley Way and promotion rivals Throops and Sunbury United fail to pick up just two and nine points respectively from their remaining fixtures to assure promotion to the top-flight for the first time in the club's short history.
United went into the game following a disappointing 4-0 defeat against already promoted Star & Garter at Knighton Park a week previous, their fourth defeat of the season on the road, but Harris was forced to make two changes for their final away trip.
Captain Mark James had missed United’s previous two games, but he was forced to replace Jack Sutherland, with Miles Splevings moving forward from right-back into midfield and talisman Jake Pantony replaced Josh van Allen alongside Dominic Ivens in the holding role.
Following the dramatic 5-5 draw at Dunley Way earlier in the season, this much-anticipated local derby was already riddled with sub-plots but amazingly, just hours before kick-off Frolesworth chairman Josh Baines pulled on the red and black of Rangers in an emergency loan deal and as fate would have it, he opened the scoring after just nine minutes.
It was James that was caught napping, too, as a somewhat routine ball skipped away from him on the glossy surface and Baines, fleet of foot, beat him to it before smashing a low drive past the advancing Sam Green.
The goal only served to spark the visitors into life though and knowing that nothing less than a win would keep their promotion hopes alive, Cook restored parity with his 17th goal of the season just seven minutes later after neat work from Young.
He soon put United in front as well with a delightful dink over the goalkeeper after Ivens’ clever through ball, but so often this season United have shot themselves in the foot and they did so again after a mistake from last week’s man of the match, Harvey Morgan.
The hosts had offered little in the way of an attacking threat in the opening exchanges, but Morgan carelessly gifted possession away on the edge of his own box and Cameron Carter was the gleeful recipient as he levelled things up barely three minutes after his side had fallen behind.
It was proving a frustrating morning in sodden conditions, but Frolesworth were re-ignited by the vibrant Pantony who set up Young to give the visitors the lead just three minutes before the break with a sublime Cruyff turn and pass.
Many would’ve been forgiven for thinking that United would cruise to victory in the second-half, but nothing is predictable when these two sides meet and that proved to be the case once again as remarkably, Rangers turned the game on its head.
With Frolesworth pushing forward, the hosts looked lethal on the counter attack and they equalised again when Pickering, advancing on the right, sent an inch-perfect cross for the unmarked Carter to find space between James and substitute Joe Swanwick and head home at the back post to make it 3-3 with still over 20 minutes remaining.
It looked as though it was going to be one of those days for Frolesworth, whose months of toil and endeavour would be rendered worthless should they not win this game but with just 13 minutes left; there was another cruel twist in the tale.
Pickering, who has been linked with a move to Dunley Way on numerous occasions this season, burst forward once more and unchallenged, he sent a delightful lob, which dropped perfectly underneath the bewildered Green’s crossbar to seemingly bring United’s season to a shuddering halt.
It was a hammer-blow for Harris’s side, but they had come back from worse situations this season and with just nine minutes left they would give themselves a glimmer of hope courtesy of an unlikely source.
It’s been a difficult season for winger Miles Splevings, though in spite of seven of his 18 appearances coming off the bench this season the youngster remains integral to Harris’ plans as he gives United another dimension through his raw pace and it was exactly that, which enabled United to square things up.
It seems Splevings thrives in local derbies, too, as his only other goal 17 minutes from time was the catalyst in United’s fight back from 5-1 down at Dunley Way last December and he left matters a little later on this occasion, firing home from an acute angle with 81 minutes on the clock.
It made for an enthralling finale, as Harris ushered his most reliable late goal-scoring hero Boulton forward alongside Simmons and Young as United once again plumped for the 3-4-3 formation with time running out.
And almost predictably, it paid dividends with just four minutes remaining.
United threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the home side but it looked as though the ball just wouldn’t cross the line until Boulton bundled home perhaps his most dramatic ever United goal to spark scenes of delirium on the touchline.
Many teams would have shut up shop, but Frolesworth’s philosophy this season has often been attack is the best form of defence and they wrapped the game up in the dying seconds when Young burst through to fire home his ninth goal in just seven appearances.
The result moves Frolesworth into the third and final promotion place with just one game to play, who’d have thought that back in September?
But promotion remains out of their hands and Harris’ side require a win against Star & Garter in the final game of the season to move them in to second place with 33 points, and to then hope that Throops fail to pick up two points in their remaining two games.
Failing that, Sunbury United would have to take a maximum of nine points from their remaining three games, or overturn a nine-goal swing and pick up seven points to pip the Rabbits to promotion on goal difference.
Defeat on Friday evening though, would mean Intermediate Cup finalists Sunbury would have to lose two of their remaining three fixtures for United to play Premier League football at Dunley Way next season.
UNITED (4-2-3-1) GREEN 6, JAMES 6, MORGAN 6, BOULTON 7 (MOM), BAKER 7, IVENS 7, PANTONY 8, SPLEVINGS 7, YOUNG 7, WILLS 7, COOK 8
SUBS – SWANWICK 7, SIMMONS 7
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