Goalkeeper Kyle Hayes was Consett’s hero as they won a penalty shoot-out against his old club Whitley Bay to take their place in the last eight of the Brooks Mileson Memorial League Cup.
A much-changed Consett side, showing five changes from the side which beat Ashington on Saturday, raced into a 3-0 first-half lead, but the visitors scored twice in the closing minutes to make the score 3-3 at full-time, and take the tie to penalties.
But with their shoot-out defeat at Seaham Red Star in the Durham Challenge Cup still fresh in their mind, Consett held their nerve to win this one 9-8, with Hayes scoring a sudden death kick and saving the decisive 20th penalty.
No one could have predicted such a dramatic finale when Consett went into a commanding lead in the first half, despite kicking into a strong wind.
The first attempt on goal came in the second minute, when the visitors’ teenage striker Marcus Giles saw a shot comfortably saved by Hayes, the keeper who was a member of Whitley’s 2011 FA Vase-winning squad.
After 10 minutes a challenge by Nick Allen on Giles earned the Consett defender a yellow card, though Bay fans wanted a red, as they claimed he was last man. From the resulting free-kick Hayes pushed Craig McFarlane’s effort round the post.
As play switched to the other end, Jermaine Metz picked out Jake Orrell with a fine cross, and keeper Dan Lister had to tip his firm header over the bar. From the corner Dean Briggs, making his first start for Consett, headed just wide.
Consett took the lead in the 17th minute, as Michael Mackay controlled Darren Holden’s pullback from the left, took a touch, and fired a low shot into the corner to make it 1-0. The goal maintained the veteran striker’s record of having scored on all three occasions the clubs have met in the League Cup, 13 years apart.
Whitley had a fortunate escape in the 22nd minute when a shot from Thomas McAloon hit the frame of the goal after slick build-up play by the hosts. But their luck ran out 60 seconds later when Lister could only push out Metz’s powerful cross from the right and the ball fell kindly for Mackay, who slotted home his second goal of the game.
Whitley responded positively and twice in the space of three minutes, McFarlane was almost clear on goal, but on both occasions his attempts were blocked by Hayes with two important saves.
The Steelmen were looking full of confidence and almost added a third goal in the 34th minute, but Lister thwarted Mackay after an attempt on goal had taken a deflection. As it turned out, they did not have to wait long for another goal. It came in the 38th minute when Luke Taylor attempted to clear McAloon’s hard, low cross from the left, but unluckily only succeeded in slicing the ball over Lister and into his own net.
Consett looked to have one foot in the quarter-finals, but Whitley gave themselves a lifeline four minutes before half-time when left-back James Martin took advantage of the strong wind and struck a superb 30-yarder which flew into the top corner, giving Hayes no chance.
Half-time: Consett 3 Whitley Bay 1
Playing with the wind in the second half, the odds still looked heavily stacked in Consett’s favour, but that’s not quite how it turned out.
Ten minutes into the half, Whitley brought on Andre Bennett, signed just hours earlier, and assisted by his presence in midfield, they became a growing presence in the game. In the 58th minute, a good move ended with Giles slotting the ball home, but his joy was short-lived as the ‘goal’ was ruled out for offside.
Consett sensed they needed another goal to kill off any revival, and almost had when Lister got his fingertips to a Mackay effort from outside the box. Then Lister not only saved but held onto a well-struck Luke Carr effort, Metz hit the top of the bar with a cross-shot, and Briggs saw a great ball into the six-yard box cleared over his own bar by a defender.
The missed chances gave the visitors hope, and the last 10 minutes saw them pushing hard for another goal. With seven minutes to go Giles was thwarted by an excellent stop from Hayes, but in the 89th minute, there was an almighty scramble in the Consett goalmouth during which Martin hit the post and Hayes saved the follow-up, only for Luke Salmon to smash it into the net from close range.
Whitley won back possession from the restart, attacked down the left, and in an unbelievable climax to the game, Bennett fired home a dramatic 90th-minute equaliser from the edge of the box. Stoppage time failed to bring a winner for either side, so the tie went to penalties.
Consett went first, and after both sides scored their first two kicks, the pendulum seemed to swing against the home side when McAloon put their third kick over the bar and Whitley scored theirs. The next three kicks were all converted, and the visitors needed keeper Lister to score their fifth to win the shootout, but to the Steelmen’s relief he smashed the ball over the bar.
Into sudden death, Hayes scored Consett’s first kick, and on it went, kick for kick, until Max Russell made it 9-8 to the home side, and Hayes dived to his left to keep out Scott Lowery’s penalty, pictured top, and win the game. A dramatic way to end the night then, and in the end the better team just about won, but the result should have been out of sight long before Whitley’s late, late comeback.
MATCH REPORT & PICTURES: GARY WELFORD