LANCING Football Club’s history-making FA Vase story continued at Culver Road on Saturday when they reached the last 32 with a 4-2 extra-time victory over Essex Senior League side Witham Town.
More than 1,000 sides started out in the first-qualifying round in August, but heroic Lancers sealed their place in the fourth round after a thrilling triumph and will now travel to Derbyshire-based Holbrook Sports or Liverpool-based St Helens Town in the fourth round on January 22. Those sides met in their third round tie last night (Wednesday).
Witham started the game as slight favourites but this did not seem to have much of an effect on Lancing, and it was they who began the brighter.
Jack Hayward could have put them ahead as early as the third minute, but his low effort was tipped wide by Witham keeper Lewis Batchford.
Witham absorbed the early pressure and their first chance fell to captain Richard Manning, whose header was just wide in the 10th minute.
Nine minutes later, Lancers went ahead. The excellent Dan McLoughlin, on his return from injury, crossed for Lee Garnham, and his header struck the post but fell kindly for the onrushing Shaheen Sadough, who lashed home into the roof of the net from eight yards.
Hayward and Michael Sims then both went close to a second, but Witham responded well and they levelled on the half-hour when James Robinson’s free-kick was headed in by leading scorer Rob Whitnell.
That spurred Witham on to take the upper hand, and they ended the half with a spell of neat football on the edge of the box, which culminated in Sam Taylor’s effort being beaten away by Lancing keeper Matt Evans.
After a cagey start to the second half, it was the Essex side who went close, with first Taylor, then Lewis Godbold, both denied by the increasingly impressive Evans.
Both sides went for it in the closing stages, with Lancing unlucky not to go ahead on 79 minutes when Richard Hudson was denied by Batchford, and the excellent Sadough put the rebound narrowly over. Witham’s Steve Joyce also went close but the scores remained level, so the match headed into extra-time.
The madcap additional period saw Lancers go ahead with the first attack when a Sims cross was headed in by the influential Lee Garnham at the back post.
Witham substitute John Watson was then denied by Evans again, before Lancers finally seemed to have killed off the tie in the 103rd minute. Seconds after Hudson’s drive almost flew in, Lee Gibbs picked out Sadough, who cut inside and finished calmly from 10 yards.
Still Witham continued to battle and they set up a nervy last 10 minutes when a Whitnell header found its way in following a Tyrone Scarlett cross on 112 minutes.
Lancing refused to panic, and made sure of their progress with a minute remaining, when hard-working substitute Darren Annis found himself one-on-one with Batchford, but unselfishly set up Hudson to expertly lob the keeper and seal a famous win.
Emotional Lancing joint manager Martin Gander seemed unable to believe the scale of his team’s achievements, and said: “I’m lost for words, what we’ve done is just remarkable.
“For such a small club to be in the last 32 of a national competition is unbelievable.
“Everyone was outstanding out there today, Sadough, Hudson, Evans and McLoughlin in particular. They’re a good side but we didn’t let them play and even though we were tired in extra-time we kept going, the goals boosted us physically, and our spirit got us through.
“It’s not about money now. It’s an incredible adventure and something these lads will never forget.”
LANCING: Evans; Elliot, Pickford, Sharman; Hudson, Sims, Hayward, Hibberd, McLoughlin; Garnham; Sadough. Subs: Annis (Sims 73), Hemsley, Gibbs (Elliot, Hayward 93), Griffin, Joseph.