A GOAL from Chris Walker seven minutes from the end of extra time last Sunday sent Northallerton Police into the final of the Frank Bainbridge Cup after an epic semi-final at Broughton Hibs.
Sam Vernalls had given the Police the perfect star with a goal after just three minutes, but after Chris Naisby brought the hosts level before the break, a rip-roaring semi-final went into extra time before Walker won it.
The Police began the day as favourites against a Hibs side who have dropped out of the title race in recent weeks. And the tie looked to be going with the form book when the league leaders went ahead inside four minutes.
David Cooke’s cross was brought down by Vernalls, whose instant shot came back off the underside of the crossbar.
The ball had initially bounced back into play but assistant referee Jonty Gill confirmed it had crossed the line and the Police were 1-0 up.
The visitors were on top at this stage but they were unable to create many clear-cut chances and slowly the Hibs began to get into the tie, thanks, mainly, to the midfield promptings of Paul Storey.
Indeed Storey had the ball in the net midway through the first half after rounding Police ‘keeper Adam Cunningham, but referee Andy Foster ruled that he had kicked it out of Cunningham’s hands and disallowed the goal. But Hibs were level soon after. Cunningham failed to hold a high ball into the penalty area and Naisby was on hand to fire into the empty net.
The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with the Police almost going in front again within four minutes.
Ashley McInerney’s leftwing corner was met with a firm header from Johnny Morris but Hibs’ ‘keeper Gareth Simpson denied him with a fine, one-handed save.
However, The Police thought they had regained the lead just past the hour mark when Vernalls had the ball in the net again, but Foster had already blown for a push by Michael Gunnell.
Extra time saw tired legs on both sides and chances were at a premium. Vernalls headed against the crossbar three minutes into the first extra period after a left-wing free kick from Cooke, while Walker saw an effort ruled out for offside soon after the restart.
But the Police finally got the goal they had been threatening with the dreaded penalty shoot-out just seven minutes away. Again it was Cooke who created it with a lovely delivery in from the left, Scott Ryan flicked the ball on and Walker arrived to smash an unstoppable volley into the the net.