WORKSOP Town squeezed past Penistone Church, a side five leagues below them, in Monday night’s Sheffield Senior Cup semi-final.
A Massiah McDonald brace and a fine goal from youngster Khalid Alali saw them win 3-2, to set up a Hillsborough final against rivals Frickley Athletic, and former manager Peter Rinkcavage, on Tuesday 8th May.
Despite an expectation that they would win easily, Tigers had to come from behind, battle and scrap, and survive a late scare on a cold and wet night in Penistone.
As Luke Shiels sat out through illness, Marc Roberts was a surprise inclusion in the Worksop back line – his first game for the club since his loan spell at Buxton finished.
Under 19 prospect Alex Nightingale earned a place in the starting line-up, on the right wing, with Lee Beeson, Steve Melton, Kern Miller, Ash Burbeary and Ryan Clarke all illegible, unavailable or suspended.
Jamie Jackson stung the hands of Penistone keeper Aaron Prat in the second minute with a fierce drive, and at the other end Lewis Dickinson shot well wide of Mario Ziccardi’s goal.
Nightingale should have opened the scoring, but he spooned the ball over the bar from McDonald’s cut back.
The miss proved costly when Dickinson skipped clear of the defence in the 26th minute, took the ball wide of Ziccardi and found the empty net from an acute angle for a shock lead.
Roberts put a free header wide of the post a few minutes later, and the game drifted into a scrappy period.
It wasn’t until five minutes before the break that Worksop levelled, Luke Sharry setting McDonald free and the striker ran on to finish with aplomb.
The goalscorer almost turned provider for Jamie Jackson, sliding the ball through the middle for his striker partner, but Jackson was beaten to it by Prat.
The slippery, uneven surface made life difficult for both teams early on in the second half, as the rain continued to fall.
Alali took the place of Nightingale on 57 minutes, and went to left-back, Owain Warlow stepping up into midfield and Craig King swapping flanks.
The reshuffle seemed to spark Tigers to life, McDonald getting two chances in quick succession but failing to beat the Penistone stopper.
With 12 minutes left, Alali started a move deep in his own half and just kept on running, popping up in the box to power home a header from King’s cross to make it 2-1.
The result seemed settled on 82 minutes, Jackson feeding McDonald who slid the ball into the net for number three.
But Penistone refused to go quietly and five minutes remained when Ziccardi struggled with a high ball and a scramble ensued, George Orrell poking the ball over the line to set up a frantic finish.
Roared on by delighted local support, Church put together one last attack in injury time and came agonisingly close to an equaliser, the ball lifted over Ziccardi and heading for the net before Alali appeared to clear off the line and save the day.