Horsham YMCA produced a battling second-half fight back on Saturday to draw 2-2 at home to ten-man Aveley in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup.
Goals from James Peagram and Liam Nash gifted the Ryman League North Millers a 2-0 lead at the break, and the visitors should have then put the tie to bed as they squandered several gilt-edged second half chances.
But Peter Buckland’s side rallied admirably and a strike 11 minutes from time completed an unlikely turnaround, as Aveley midfielder Junior Appiah was sent off for violent conduct late on.
YM will now have to do it all over again as they travel to Essex for the replay on Wednesday evening.
Manager Buckland commented: “It was a good comeback. We’re still in the cup and we’re still going to be in the draw on Monday. Who knows what the draw is going to throw at us in terms of an added incentive.
“I can tell you now that I’m not going up to Aveley on Wednesday just to fulfil a fixture. Absolutely no way. If everyone’s available, I know exactly in my mind what we’ll be doing. I think that the boys are really up for it.”
The Millers were cleverer and quicker to anticipate than a lacklustre YM during the first period, although the two goals proved the only real talking points of a cagey, uneventful opening 45 minutes.
The away side broke the deadlock just before the half hour mark as captain Billy Holland turned his man in midfield before dinking the ball through to Peagram, who neatly half volleyed first time past a motionless Simon Lockwood in the home goal.
Five minutes before half-time, Brian Okwera freed Lee Prescott and when his penetrating ball in behind the YM defence, was only half cleared, impressive Aveley wide man Nash cut inside and exquisitely curled into the far corner with the outside of his boot.
Buckland added: “In the first half we were awful. I’ve got to say that tactically I got it one-hundred percent wrong. Again, one part of the jigsaw being missing, which was Dan Evans at left back, meant so much fundamentally changes. And it really affected us.
“Luc Doherty should have been playing in the middle at the back with Alex (Gathern), because Craney (Matt Crane) was injured. They’ve got a great understanding, and Aveley wouldn’t have got the two goals straight through the centre.
“Putting Ash (Dugdale) at centre back, we miss his drive in the middle of midfield, and we then had to start Hibbs (Anthony Hibbert), who has been away for so long. I tried to adjust things as best I could with the least amount of disruption to our pattern of play.”
Aveley could have put the tie beyond all doubt within eight minutes of the restart, as David Fallah’s hanging cross was headed wide by Nash at the far post, before burly forward Peagram nodded a Paul Preston ball into the box over the crossbar when picked out unmarked.
YM were handed a lifeline just before the hour mark when Sam Schaaf rose highest to meet a Luke Gedling corner, and his header found its way into the net via Millers defender Harrison Spencer to half the deficit and mark his fourth goal in as many games.
Aveley were then punished for their missed opportunities as Dave Brown’s infield run was halted by defender Preston, but the ball only fell as far as Dean Wright, who steadied himself before firing low into the corner from 20 yards to restore parity.
Late on Millers substitute Appiah was shown a straight red card by referee Neil Morrison at the death. He needlessly raised a hand in Carden’s face and then appeared to head butt Alex Gathern, before clashing with the YM bench as he leisurely left the field. The midfielder has since been released by Aveley.
Boss Buckland concluded: ““I thought that it was a good, competitive game. It was a shame that one of their lads lost his head a bit at the end there, but it happens. I’m not condemning him for that, but he should have just walked off the pitch and into the dressing rooms instead of trying to fight everybody on the way off. He’s upset his team mates.
“I’m happy to have another bite of the cherry, but we certainly aren’t going up there on Wednesday to make the numbers up. It’s not the easiest of journeys, but you can’t worry about that at this level.”
Horsham YMCA: Lockwood, Carden, Gathern, Dugdale, Doherty, Gedling, Hibbert (Hunter 60) D. Brown, Schaaf, D.Sullivan (Wright 60), N.Sullivan. Unused subs: Fox, White, J.Brown, Crane, O’Carroll.